113 F.3d 196 (11th Cir. 1997), 96-6238, Killinger v. Samford University

Docket Nº96-6238.
Citation113 F.3d 196
Party NameJohn R. KILLINGER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. SAMFORD UNIVERSITY, Defendant-Appellee.
Case DateMay 22, 1997
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 196

113 F.3d 196 (11th Cir. 1997)

John R. KILLINGER, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

SAMFORD UNIVERSITY, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 96-6238.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

May 22, 1997

Page 197

John C. Falkenberry, Robert R. Baugh, Sirote & Permutt, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Peyton Lacy, Jr., Joseph W. Mathews, Jr., James C. Pennington, Lange, Simpson, Robinson & Somerville, Birmingham, AL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Stuart Smith, Roy L. Barrett, Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee, P.C., Waco, TX, amicus curiae.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before EDMONDSON and BLACK, Circuit Judges, and RONEY, Senior Circuit Judge.

EDMONDSON, Circuit Judge:

This case presents the issue of the interpretation of two religious exemptions to Title VII, the "religious educational institution" exemption and the "owned, supported, controlled, or managed" by a "religious association" exemption. Plaintiff says that a university's decision to remove him from his teaching position at its divinity school constituted religious discrimination and that the district court erred in applying the two exemptions to his Title VII claim. Because we believe that this case presents the circumstances envisioned by Congress in drafting these two exemptions, we affirm the district court's judgment for defendant.

I.

Plaintiff John R. Killinger is a professor, author, and preacher. Defendant Samford

Page 198

University ("Samford") is a university located in Birmingham, Alabama. As a result of a bequest in a will, Samford received money to establish a divinity school, the Beeson School of Divinity.

Plaintiff entered into discussions with the President of Samford about the new divinity school, and was offered a position as Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture. Under the terms of their agreement, Plaintiff was to teach in both the new divinity school and the undergraduate departments of religion and English.

Plaintiff and the Dean of the Beeson Divinity School do not share the same theological views. Samford eventually removed Plaintiff from the divinity school teaching schedule and, as he says, "[forbade him from] having any involvement with the Divinity School." According to the Complaint, "[b]ecause of his religious philosophy, [Plaintiff] has been denied the opportunity to teach at the Divinity School" and "he has been discriminated against because of religious reasons, more particularly because he did not adhere to and sometime[s] questioned the fundamentalist theology advanced by the leadership of the Beeson School of Divinity, particularly Dr. Timothy George, its Dean." Plaintiff continues to teach undergraduate religion courses.

Plaintiff filed a Title VII claim alleging religious discrimination, along with supplemental claims for breach of contract and negligent supervision. After the parties conducted limited discovery on the issue of whether Samford qualifies for a religious exemption, Samford sought summary judgment. The district court granted the motion.

II.

We review the grant or denial of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard to be used by district courts. Parks v. City of Warner Robins, Ga., 43 F.3d 609, 612-613 (11th Cir.1995). The plaintiff in an employment discrimination case bears the burden of establishing that the employer falls within the scope of the pertinent statute. Earley v. Champion Intern. Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1081 (11th Cir.1990).

  1. Religious Educational Institution Exemption

    Section 702(a) of Title VII provides as follows:

    This subchapter shall not apply ... to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.

    42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1(a). Plaintiff presents two arguments about Section 702. First, Plaintiff says that Samford is a "secular" institution, not a "religious" one. Second, Plaintiff says that Samford is entitled to an exemption only if its employment decision was the result of an institutional religious policy and that Samford cannot meet this requirement.

    Plaintiff argues that Samford is no "religious" institution as it is not sufficiently "sectarian." In so arguing, Plaintiff seeks to distinguish EEOC v. Mississippi College, 626 F.2d 477 (5th Cir.1980). In Mississippi College, the former Fifth Circuit accepted the district court's conclusion that Mississippi College was a "religious educational institution." 1 Id. at 486. Plaintiff says that this conclusion was based on the fact that Mississippi College was owned and operated by the Mississippi Baptist Convention and was "pervasively sectarian." Id. at 487. The Mississippi College court, however, looked at all the circumstances to determine whether Mississippi College was a "religious educational institution": 95% of the faculty were Baptist, 88% of the students were Baptist, the curriculum included study of the Bible, chapel was mandatory and the school expressly sought

    Page 199

    to provide "educational enrichment in a Christian atmosphere." Id. at 479. Plaintiff has cited to us no authority supporting his idea that some kind of rigid sectarianism is a requirement for the "religious educational institution" exemption, and we are aware of none.

    Samford presented extensive evidence to establish that it is a "religious educational institution." Samford was founded as a "theological" institution in 1841 by the Alabama Baptist State Convention (the "Convention"). While Samford recently amended its charter to remove the Convention's power to elect the school's trustees, its trustees are now, must be, and always have been (with one historical exception) Baptist.

    Samford receives roughly seven percent of its annual budget (over four million dollars) from the Convention. This sum is its largest single source of funding. 2 This money is also the largest amount (from a single source) received by a Baptist college in the United States. Samford reports financially to both the Convention and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and submits financial reports to the...

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35 practice notes
  • Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty
    • United States
    • Federal Register October 26, 2017
    • October 26, 2017
    ...with the employer's religious precepts.'' Little v. Wuerl, 929 F.2d 944, 951 (3d Cir. 1991); see also Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 198-200 (11th Cir. 1997). For example, in Little, the Third Circuit held that the exemption applied to a Catholic school's decision to fire a divor......
  • Qualifying for the Title VII religious organization exemption: federal circuits split over proper test.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 76 Nbr. 2, March 2011
    • March 22, 2011
    ...Supp. 286, 289-90 (E.D. Va. 1982), affd, 709 F.2d 284 (4th Cir. 1983) (applying the secularization test), with Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 199 (11th Cir. 1997) (applying the sufficiently religious test), and EEOC v. Miss. Coll., 626 F.2d 477, 478-79 (5th Cir. 1980) (applying t......
  • Can academic freedom in faith-based colleges and universities survive during the era of Obergefell?
    • United States
    • Ave Maria Law Review Vol. 14 Nbr. 1, September 2016
    • September 22, 2016
    ...(137.) See 42 U.S.C.A. [section] 2000-(e)(2)(e) (2012). (138.) See AAUP, supra note 70. (139.) See Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 200 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Hall v. Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., 215 F.3d 618 (6th Cir. 2000) (granting the college's motion for summary jud......
  • The Fourth Amendment, canine olfaction, and vehicle stops: time is of the es'scents'.
    • United States
    • Florida Bar Journal Vol. 76 Nbr. 3, March 2002
    • March 1, 2002
    ...to the initial seizure is of no legal consequence, if the initial vehicle stop is lawful. (33) But see United States v. Holloman, 113 F. 3d at 196: "[The defendant] was not delayed at all because the canine unit was already on the scene by the time he denied consent to search his vehic......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • 611 F.Supp.2d 1346 (M.D.Ga. 2009), 3:08-CV-79 (CDL), Smith v. Angel Food Ministries, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Middle District of Georgia
    • February 3, 2009
    ...the Court finds that the better-reasoned approach is to assume jurisdiction over this case and examine its merits. See, e.g., Killinger, 113 F.3d at 198 (affirming district court's grant of summary judgment to religious educational institution after the parties conducted limited discovery o......
  • 735 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 2013), 12-3841, Korte v. Sebelius
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • November 8, 2013
    ...Supreme Court as a matter of constitutional avoidance to limit the reach of the National Labor Relations Act); Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 198-99 (11th Cir.1997); EEOC v. Townley Eng'g & Mfg. Co., 859 F.2d 610, 618-19 (9th Cir.1988). Relying on this line of cases, the gove......
  • Smith v. Angel Food Ministries, Inc., 120408 GAMDC, 3:08-CV-79 (CDL)
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Middle District of Georgia
    • December 4, 2008
    ...with the employer's when the work is connected with carrying out the institution's activities." Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 200 (11th Cir. 1997). The religious exemption therefore prevents certain employees from suing a religious organization under Title VII, but only whe......
  • Korte v. Sebelius, 110813 FED7, 13-1077
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • November 8, 2013
    ...Supreme Court as a matter of constitutional avoidance to limit the reach of the National Labor Relations Act); Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 198–99 (11th Cir. 1997); EEOC v. Townley Eng'g & Mfg. Co., 859 F.2d 610, 618–19 (9th Cir. 1988). Relying on this line of cases, the go......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
4 books & journal articles
  • Qualifying for the Title VII religious organization exemption: federal circuits split over proper test.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 76 Nbr. 2, March 2011
    • March 22, 2011
    ...Supp. 286, 289-90 (E.D. Va. 1982), affd, 709 F.2d 284 (4th Cir. 1983) (applying the secularization test), with Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 199 (11th Cir. 1997) (applying the sufficiently religious test), and EEOC v. Miss. Coll., 626 F.2d 477, 478-79 (5th Cir. 1980) (applying t......
  • Can academic freedom in faith-based colleges and universities survive during the era of Obergefell?
    • United States
    • Ave Maria Law Review Vol. 14 Nbr. 1, September 2016
    • September 22, 2016
    ...(137.) See 42 U.S.C.A. [section] 2000-(e)(2)(e) (2012). (138.) See AAUP, supra note 70. (139.) See Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 200 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Hall v. Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., 215 F.3d 618 (6th Cir. 2000) (granting the college's motion for summary jud......
  • The Fourth Amendment, canine olfaction, and vehicle stops: time is of the es'scents'.
    • United States
    • Florida Bar Journal Vol. 76 Nbr. 3, March 2002
    • March 1, 2002
    ...to the initial seizure is of no legal consequence, if the initial vehicle stop is lawful. (33) But see United States v. Holloman, 113 F. 3d at 196: "[The defendant] was not delayed at all because the canine unit was already on the scene by the time he denied consent to search his vehic......
  • Free exercise of religion before the bench: empirical evidence from the federal courts.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 88 Nbr. 3, February - February 2013
    • February 1, 2013
    ...Mem'l Health Care Corp., 215 F.3d 618 (6th Cir. 2000); Starkman v. Evans, 198 F.3d 173 (5th Cir. 1999); Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196 (11th Cir. 1997); E.E.O.C. v. Catholic Univ. of Am., 83 F.3d 455 (D.C. Cir. 1996); Ticali v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, 41 F. Supp. 2d 24......
2 provisions
  • Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty
    • United States
    • Federal Register October 26, 2017
    • October 26, 2017
    ...with the employer's religious precepts.'' Little v. Wuerl, 929 F.2d 944, 951 (3d Cir. 1991); see also Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 198-200 (11th Cir. 1997). For example, in Little, the Third Circuit held that the exemption applied to a Catholic school's decision to fire a divor......
  • Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause's Religious Exemption
    • United States
    • Federal Contract Compliance Programs Office
    • Invalid date
    ...beliefs are inconsistent with those of its employer.'' (citing, inter alia, Little, 929 F.2d at 951)); Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196, 200 (11th Cir. 1997) (``[T]he exemption [in 42 U.S.C. 2000e-1(a)] allows religious institutions to employ only persons whose beliefs are consisten......