Sterlinski v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, No. 18-2844 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The Parish hired Sterlinski in 1992 as Director of Music. In 2014 the Parish’s priest demoted Sterlinski to the job of organist and in 2015 fired him outright. Sterlinski contends that the Parish held his Polish heritage against him. Until his demotion he could have been fired for any reason, because as Director of Music he held substantial authority over the conduct of religious services and would have been treated as a “minister.” Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not apply to ministers. Sterlinski claims that as an organist, he was just “robotically playing the music that he was given” and could not be treated as a minister. The district court disagreed and granted summary judgment to the Bishop. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Organ playing serves a religious function in the life of the Parish. The court stated: “If the Roman Catholic Church believes that organ music is vital to its religious services, and that to advance its faith it needs the ability to select organists, who are we judges to disagree?”
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on October 31, 2019.