Functional Test

The functional test is applied by a court when it seeks to determine whether a church employee or staff member falls within the “ministerial exception,” which greatly limits the power of government to interfere in the relationship, duties, discipline, assignments, etc., of those who fall within the exception. The ministerial exception, despite its name, is not limited to ministers, but applies to a wide variety of church workers whose duties or “functions” play an important role in the religious mission of the church, even if they do not preach or teach the religion directly. Hence the name “functional test.”