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1986-11-20 - Court of cassation, National union of the religious associations of the Reformed Church of France, n. 84-43.243

Workplace · France · Employement contract · Faith-Based Organisation

Distinction between the status of pastor and the status of professor of protestant theology

Key facts of the case - The applicant had been appointed as a lecturer in the Faculty of protestant theology in Montpellier for three years by the National Council of the Reformed Church of France. She had been ordained as a pastor while occupying this position. She claims that she performed her professional duties within a work contract and that this contract had been improperly terminated. The defendant sustains that teaching theology by a minister of the Reformed Church cannot be assimilated to a work performance. In addition, this activity cannot be subject to relationship of subordination because of the independence of the teachers.

Main reasoning of the court - First, the Court observes that the status of pastor is not automatically linked to the status of professor of theology and that both should be distinguished.
Second, the Court holds that article L. 122-45 of the Labour code, which provides that an employee cannot be punished or dismissed on religious grounds, does not apply to the employee hired for a task implying a communion of thought and faith with the employer, when the employee has not abided by the obligations due to this hiring.
Nevertheless, it is held that the independence of the professors of theology is not incompatible with a link of subordination towards the manager of the institution.
Accordingly, the claim of the employer is dismissed.