48 F.Supp.2d 505 (E.D.N.C. 1999), 598-CV-978, E.E.O.C. v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina

Docket Nº598-CV-978
Citation48 F.Supp.2d 505
Party NameE.E.O.C. v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina
Case DateApril 30, 1999
CourtUnited States District Courts, 4th Circuit, Eastern District of North Carolina

Page 505

48 F.Supp.2d 505 (E.D.N.C. 1999)




No. 5:98-CV-978-H.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division.

April 30, 1999

Page 506

Mindy E. Weinstein, Regional Attorney, E.E.O.C., Charlotte District Office, Charlotte, NC, Rosemary J. Fox, Erania Ebron-Fubara, Sr., Trial Attorney, E.E.O.C., Charlotte, NC, for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, plaintiff.

Cecil W. Harrison, Jr., Poyner & Spruill, Raleigh, NC, Charles F. Powers, III, Raleigh, NC, Robin T. Morris, Poyner & Spruill, Raleigh, NC, for The Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, defendant.


MALCOLM J. HOWARD, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Both parties have filed

Page 507

briefs of the highest caliber with the court on their respective positions; therefore, this matter is ripe for ruling.


The court is confronted with the clash of two deeply held American convictions. One, embodied in the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991, is to prevent discrimination; the other, embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, is to protect the free exercise of religion.

This dispute arises out of complaints filed by Joyce M. Austin ("Austin") with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC investigated Austin's complaints and filed the present action alleging that defendants, The Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina (the "Diocese"), and Sacred Heart Cathedral (the "Cathedral"), discriminated against Austin on the basis of her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The EEOC alleges that the defendants discriminated against Austin by (1) reassigning some of her duties to males; (2) retaliating against her for filing EEOC complaints by demoting her, failing to select her for a new position and requiring her to work additional hours in her teaching position; and, (3) retaliating against her by demoting her from a "regular" part-time teacher to a part-time teacher.

The Cathedral, a constituent part of the Diocese, is a Roman Catholic Church and part of the hierarchical form of government of the Catholic Church. The Diocese governs the Roman Catholic Church body in Eastern North Carolina.

Austin began her employment relationship with the Cathedral in June 1983, when she became the Director of the Cathedral Folk Choir. In 1984 she began teaching music at the Cathedral Elementary School (the "School"). Father G.L. Lewis ("Father Lewis"), the rector of the Cathedral, promoted Austin to the Director of Music Ministry in July 1990. Her duties at the School covered responsibility for the music program to include two extracurricular musical performances, serving as a resource person for all musical activities, playing piano for mass and assisting in the preparation for School liturgies. (See "Job Description" attached as Ex. A to Austin Aff.)

Upon being promoted to Music Minister, Austin's duties at the Cathedral increased. The Cathedral described the duties in detail as follows:

PARISH NEED: The Cathedral Parish has grown to the point where there is the need of a full time music person; a person who would be part of the Parish Ministry Team, available for on-going Liturgy planning, Ministry team meetings and for consultation in the day to day matters of the parish.


1. To assist in the planning of all Parish Liturgies; to direct the parish choirs; to teach the congregation to actively and vocally participate in the music of the Parish; to recruit and train cantors.


To Plan and accompany all weddings. When the Parish Music Minister is away he/she will obtain fitting substitutes for the rite but will retain supervision of musical planning for the wedding ceremony. To plan and accompany all funerals. With the Parish Priests to visit the family of the deceased and assist said family and priest in planning the funeral liturgy.

3. To assist in the planning and to be present for ALL SPECIAL LITURGIES i.e. Holy Days, Holy Week, Penancy Services, First Eucharist, Ash Wednesday, All Souls Day, Thanksgiving Day, 4th of July, Cathedral School Liturgies and all Liturgies when the Bishop is present.

Page 508

4. To TEACH IN THE CATHEDRAL SCHOOL under the supervision of the principal

(See Ex. B "Proposed Job Description," attached to Austin Aff.) (emphasis in the original). The proposed job description called for a total of 17 1/2 work hours per week at the Cathedral consisting of five and one-half hours each Sunday, six hours for choir rehearsals, one hour for handbell choir rehearsal, four hours planning for masses and one hour for training cantors. (See id.) Austin's average work week at the School consisted of 21 hours. (See id.)

Father Lewis and Austin summarized these duties in a one page handwritten document which included teaching in the School; directing folk and traditional choirs and training cantors; supervising the spiritual and Hispanic choirs; approving music for weddings, even if unavailable, and playing the organ for weddings; calling or visiting families who are planning funerals; and, attending monthly worship committee meetings and planning seasonal liturgy. (See Ex. C attached to Austin Aff.). Austin was to choose "music that reflected and enhanced the theme of the Scriptures of the day and that would assist the assembly in their individual journeys of faith." (See O'Conner Aff.¶ 7)

Father Lewis was replaced by Father John Francis O'Conner ("Father Tim") in May 1992. Austin alleges that she began to suffer discrimination in September 1992, when some of her duties were reassigned to males. The duties Austin alleges Father Tim reassigned consist of choirs, other then the Cathedral choir, being brought in to sing at mass, and organists, other than Austin, being used for events at the Cathedral.1 In February 1995, Austin filed her first claim with the EEOC alleging discrimination based on sex.

Also in 1995, the Cathedral conducted a parish survey on all aspects of the church. The survey indicated a dissatisfaction among members of the parish with the music ministry at the Cathedral. As a result of these concerns, the Cathedral formed a Search Committee to develop a job description for a full-time position to be titled "Director of Music Ministries and Organist." The Search Committee developed a more detailed job description than the one under which Austin performed her duties. The new job description continued to place the responsibility for all music associated with worship on the Director of Music, continued to require the Director of Music to participate on certain parish committees and continued to place responsibility for choir and cantor training on the Director of Music. (See Ex. B attached to O'Conner Aff. and Ex. B attached to Austin Aff.) The revised job description clarified matters that seemed implied in the previous job description. For example, the new job description explicitly required the Director of Music Ministries to be a practicing Catholic, to have a degree in music or equivalent experience and to "support the Gospel message through song and challenge the assembly to live it more fully." (See Ex. B attached to O'Conner Aff.)

Father Tim informed Austin that her contract covering her duties as Minister of Music at the Cathedral would not be renewed and would expire on June 30, 1995. Austin retained her duties as a part-time teacher at the School. On June 30, 1995, Austin filed her second complaint with the EEOC alleging she had been demoted from Minister of Music to part-time music teacher at the School in retaliation for her February 1995 EEOC filing.

The Search Committee advertised the new position in "The North Carolina Catholic" and other publications. These solicitations garnered approximately 43 applications. The Search Committee considered the applicants and recommended one, Paul

Page 509

Monachino, to Father Tim. After "prayerful reflection" Father Tim selected Paul Monachino as the person who "could best accomplish the spiritual and pastoral functions of [the Music Minister] and who, through leading the musical praise, could challenge and promote the spiritual good of the assembly." (See O'Conner Aff. ¶ 11). On February 1, 1996, Austin filed a third complaint with the EEOC alleging sex discrimination and retaliation for previous EEOC filings which resulted in not being chosen for the full-time position of Director of Music Ministry.

Austin continued her part-time teaching job at the School. In the Spring of 1997, the principal informed her that she would not be given a teaching contract due to her "part-time" rather than "regular part-time" status. The principal explained that she was considered "part-time" rather than "regular part-time" because the actual number of hours she worked were not enough to be considered "regular part-time." (See Austin Aff. ¶ 23). As a result of this change, Austin filed a fourth charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

The EEOC filed this complaint on Austin's behalf and the defendants have moved for dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Defendants contend that adjudication of the plaintiff's claim constitutes a violation of both the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. More specifically, defendants contend that the ministerial exception of the Free Exercise Clause requires dismissal as does the Establishment Clause's prohibition against excessive government entanglement in religious affairs. Plaintiff counters that the...

To continue reading

Request your trial