Press Release

Historic religious college asks federal appeals court to protect its ministry Moody Bible Institute asks Seventh Circuit to keep judges and juries out of picking, training clergy

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON – A 137-year-old religious college and seminary that trains students for ministry has asked a federal appeals court to protect its beliefs about religious leadership from second-guessing by judges or juries. In Garrick v. Moody Bible Institute, a former faculty member at Moody is enlisting federal courts to punish Moody for its beliefs about the composition of the clergy. With the help of Becket, Moody is asking the court to keep the federal judiciary from entangling itself in disagreements over who should be clergy, and uphold its ability to train students for Christian leadership free from government interference.

Moody Bible Institute was founded in 1886 in downtown Chicago by prominent evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Originally named the Chicago Evangelization Society, Moody’s college and seminary prepares women and men to bring the Christian faith to all people. In the course of sharing this faith, Moody’s graduates have served worldwide, flying medical supplies to remote parts of Indonesia, feeding the poor in Cambodia, caring for refugees from South America, supporting displaced families in war-torn Ukraine, and running a women’s shelter in downtown Chicago. 

“For over 130 years, our school has trained and formed faithful Christian women and men who will commit their lives to spreading the gospel and bringing hope, joy, and love to all those in need,” said Dr. Mark Jobe, president at Moody Bible Institute. “This mission is rooted in Christ’s command to announce the good news to all people, and it has served as the bedrock of Moody since our founding.”  

Moody ensures that its ministry remains steadfast by asking all faculty to affirm its core religious beliefs, including its belief that the church office of pastor (or “elder”) should be filled by men. But despite knowing about this belief and agreeing to adhere to it, a Moody faculty member began advocating against it within Moody’s ministry. When Moody approached her about the situation and received her confirmation that she rejected Moody’s religious views, the professor’s contract was not renewed. In response, she moved her advocacy to federal court and sued, asking the government to take her side in a religious dispute.  

“If the separation of church and state means anything, it means that the federal government can’t punish a religious college for its beliefs over who should serve as a pastor, priest, imam, or rabbi,” said Daniel Blomberg, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “Religious groups should be free to make up their own minds on clergy qualifications without judges or juries putting a finger on the scales.”  

Oral argument is expected to be scheduled for Winter 2023 or Spring 2024.   

Moody is also represented by Christian Poland of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.  

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.Interviews can be arranged in English, Mandarin, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.