683 F.2d 1030 (7th Cir. 1982), 81-2960, Menora v. Illinois High School Ass'n

Docket Nº:81-2960.
Citation:683 F.2d 1030
Party Name:Moshe MENORA, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:June 30, 1982
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 1030

683 F.2d 1030 (7th Cir. 1982)

Moshe MENORA, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,


ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 81-2960.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 30, 1982

Argued May 27, 1982.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied Aug. 18, 1982.

On Rehearing

Page 1031

Wayne F. Plaza, Rooks, Pitts, Fullagar & Poust, Chicago, Ill., for defendants-appellants.

David A. Grossberg, D'Ancona, Pflaum, Wyatt & Riskind, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Before CUDAHY, ESCHBACH, and POSNER, Circuit Judges.

POSNER, Circuit Judge.

Interscholastic high school sports in Illinois, including basketball, are conducted under the aegis of the Illinois High School Association, a private association of virtually all of the state's public and private (including parochial) high schools. A rule of the Association forbids basketball players to wear hats or other headwear, with the sole exception of a headband no wider than two inches, while playing. The principal concern behind this prohibition is that the headwear might fall off in the heat of play and one of the players might trip or slip on it, fall, and injure himself.

This rule is challenged in the present case as an infringement of the religious freedom of orthodox Jews. According to a stipulation between the parties, orthodox Jewish males are required by their religion "to cover their heads at all times except when they are (a) unconscious, (b) immersed in water or (c) in imminent danger of loss of life." There is no exception for playing basketball. Orthodox Jews who play basketball comply, or at least try to comply, with this requirement by wearing yarmulkes (small skull caps that cover the crown of the head) fastened to the hair with bobby pins. Ordinarily a yarmulke just perches on the head; the bobby pins are an acknowledgment of the yarmulke's instability on a bobbing head. But bobby pins are not a secure method of fastening; yarmulkes fastened by them fall off in the heat of play with some frequency. The Association has interpreted its rule to forbid the wearing of yarmulkes during play; and the plaintiffs in this lawsuit-two orthodox

Page 1032

Jewish high schools in Chicago, the members of their interscholastic basketball teams, and the members' parents-contend that this interpretation forces them to choose between their religious observance and participating in interscholastic basketball, which as it happens is the only interscholastic sport in which the two schools participate.

The district court held that the Association is an arm of the state for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment, that the hazards posed by yarmulkes are too slight to justify putting the plaintiffs to the choice we have just mentioned, and therefore that the rule, as applied to prohibit the wearing of yarmulkes while playing basketball, violates the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment, which was held in Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303-04, 60 S.Ct. 900, 903-904, 84 L.Ed. 1213 (1940), to be applicable to the states by virtue of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 527 F.Supp. 637 (N.D.Ill.1981).

The Association no longer contests the finding that it is an arm of the State of Illinois for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although the Association is nominally a private organization, public high schools comprise the bulk of its membership and dominate its decisionmaking. Since there is no issue of state action before us, we need not consider the district court's application of the principle of collateral estoppel to bar the Association from denying that it is an arm of the state for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. Our silence is not to be construed as approval or disapproval of the district court's analysis of this question.

The First Amendment, so far as is relevant to this case, provides that "Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise (of religion)." Read literally (after substituting "Illinois High School Association" for "Congress" and "rule" for "law"), this language would not forbid a regulation secular in purpose (the purpose of the no-headwear rule is to promote safety); general in application; not motivated by antipathy to any religious group on which the regulation might bear heavily or by sympathy for a competing group (there is no suggestion of any such motivation here); and that does not actually prohibit a religious observance but merely makes it more costly by forcing the observant to give up some government benefit (here, participation in an interscholastic sport sponsored by an arm of the state). Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972), on which the plaintiffs rely heavily, involved a state law that forced Amish children to attend school, contrary to their religion. The counterpart in this case would be a state law that forbade people to cover their heads, wherever they were or whatever they were doing, with no exception for orthodox Jews. Cf. Moskowitz v. Wilkinson, 432 F.Supp. 947 (D.Conn.1977). The no-headwear rule does not do this; it forces orthodox Jews to choose only between keeping their heads covered and playing interscholastic basketball.

But whatever the literal or for that matter the original meaning of the free-exercise clause, the Supreme Court has interpreted it to require the government, when it can do so without too much cost or inconvenience, to bend its regulations-even when they are secular, general, nondiscriminatory, and do not forbid but merely burden a religious observance-to spare religious people the painful choice between giving up a part of their religious observance and giving up a valuable government benefit. In Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 83 S.Ct. 1790, 10 L.Ed.2d 965 (1963), a Seventh-Day Adventist was fired by her employer because she would not work on Saturdays-her religion forbade her to do so. She applied for unemployment compensation. It was denied on the ground that her refusal to work on Saturdays constituted a failure, without good cause, to accept available suitable work when offered, a condition under state law for receiving unemployment compensation. The Supreme Court held that this denial placed a burden on the plaintiff's exercise of her religion that was disproportionate to the state's interest, described as the avoidance of "fraudulent claims by unscrupulous claimants feigning

Page 1033

religious objections to Saturday work ...." 374 U.S. at 407, 83 S.Ct. at 1795.

Sherbert and the cases following it require a comparison of two burdens: the burden on the person who is seeking a government benefit of being denied the benefit as the price of observing his religion, and the burden on the government of extending the benefit to someone who fails to meet the usual requirements for eligibility. See, e.g., Giannella, Religious Liberty, Nonestablishment, and Doctrinal Development, 80 Harv.L.Rev. 1381...

To continue reading