766 F.2d 932 (6th Cir. 1985), 84-3124, Dayton Christian Schools, Inc. v. Ohio Civil Rights Com'n

Docket Nº:84-3124.
Citation:766 F.2d 932
Party Name:DAYTON CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. OHIO CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:June 26, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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766 F.2d 932 (6th Cir. 1985)

DAYTON CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

OHIO CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 84-3124.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 26, 1985

Argued March 12, 1985.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Bruce E. Pence, Logothetis and Parks, Dayton, Ohio, William B. Ball (argued), Ball and Skelly, Philip J. Murren, Sandra E. Wise, Harrisburg, Pa., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Asst. Atty. Gen., Civil Rights Section, Columbus, Ohio, Helen M. Ninos (argued), Michael A. Esposito, Columbus, Ohio, for defendants-appellees.

Before CONTIE and MILBURN, Circuit Judges, and PECK, Senior Circuit Judge.

CONTIE, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs Dayton Christian Schools, Inc., et al. appeal the district court's order dismissing their complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from application of the Ohio Civil Rights Act, Ohio Rev.Code Ann. Sec. 4112.01 et seq. (Page 1959). 1 Finding that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution proscribes application of the state statute in this context, we reverse.

I.

In January 1979, Linda Hoskinson, a teacher at Dayton Christian Schools (DCS), informed DCS Principal James Rakestraw that she was pregnant. When Rakestraw discussed this with DCS Superintendent Claude Schindler in February 1979, Schindler "instructed Mr. Rakestraw to write Mrs. Hoskinson a letter stating to her that because of our desire to have a mother home with pre-school age children, that she would not be issued a contract for the upcoming school year." On February 20, 1979, Rakestraw wrote such a letter to Hoskinson. 2

After learning that she would not be rehired for the next school year, Hoskinson consulted an attorney who wrote to DCS threatening legal action for violation of state and federal statutes proscribing employment discrimination. On March 14, 1979, Hoskinson was terminated because she had consulted an attorney. In a letter dated March 27, 1979, the DCS Board rescinded the February 20 letter in which the Board declined to rehire Hoskinson and instead discharged her for failing to follow the Biblical Chain-of-Command. 3

On March 28, 1979, Hoskinson filed a charge of sex discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) alleging

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that the reason for her termination "was the school's belief that during the early years of a child's growth, the mother's place is in the home." On April 18, 1979, the OCRC requested information on the matter from DCS, and on May 14, 1979, informed DCS that a formal investigation had begun. On October 24, 1979, OCRC informed DCS that a hearing would be held on November 16 and requested information including employment data on Hoskinson, blank employment applications, employee handbooks and rules and regulations, job descriptions and model contracts, information about employee pregnancies, employee grievance procedures, and complete personnel files for more than a dozen DCS employees. On January 28, 1980, OCRC informed DCS that the Commission had found probable cause to believe that DCS had engaged in unlawful discrimination. The Commission found that "[e]vidence does not indicate that the Ohio Civil Rights Commission lacks jurisdiction over Respondent because it is a religious institution." Further, the Commission concluded that "[c]omplainant's discharge, and the reasons given for it by Respondent, were directly linked to the February 20, 1979 memo which stated that she would not be offered a contract because 'if there are pre-school age children in the home we recommend the mother stay there and do not accept her application.' " The Commission further suggested that the parties enter into a Conciliation Agreement and Consent Order. On April 18, 1980, the Commission issued a complaint against DCS and DCS answered asserting lack of jurisdiction due to the religious basis for the discharge.

On October 1, 1980, plaintiff-appellants, Dayton Christian Schools, Inc., Patterson Park Church, Christian Tabernacle, DCS Superintendent Claude Schindler, parents Stephen and Camillia House, and DCS teacher Paul Pyle brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 against the OCRC, five commissioners, the Ohio Attorney General, OCRC directors and two assistant attorney generals. 4 Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that enforcement of the Ohio Civil Rights Act against DCS violated the First, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments and an injunction to enjoin interference with plaintiffs' free exercise of their religious beliefs. Plaintiffs also argue that the State's attempt to exercise jurisdiction over the school and its hiring practices violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. 5 On October 6, the district court granted a temporary restraining order restraining the OCRC from proceeding with a public hearing concerning DCS employment practices. The parties agreed to consolidate trial on the merits with a hearing on plaintiffs' motion for a permanent injunction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(2). A one-day trial was held on December 8, 1980, and, on January 6, 1984, the district court entered an order dismissing the case and denying plaintiffs relief. On July 30, 1984, the district court entered an order granting plaintiffs' request for an injunction pending appeal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 62(c). 604 F.Supp. 101.

II.

Our consideration of appellants' constitutional claims requires review of the facts regarding the nature of Dayton Christian Schools, the exercise of religion implicated in the OCRC's actions, and the statutory scheme from which DCS claims exemption. Of course, we recognize that "[f]indings of fact shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses." Fed.R.Civ.P.

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52(a); Roemer v. Board of Public Works of Maryland, 426 U.S. 736, 758, 96 S.Ct. 2337, 2350, 49 L.Ed.2d 179 (1976) (plurality). We make no effort to "duplicate the role of the lower court," but only consider whether "the district court's account of the evidence is plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety." Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, --- U.S. ----, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 1511-12, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985). 6

A.

The district court found that DCS has "a dominant religious purpose which permeates both the administrative and substantive aspects of the school." 578 F.Supp. at 1008-09. Further, the court found that

[e]very aspect of the school's operation is geared toward exposing and educating the students on how to lead a Christian life by understanding what the members consider to be the guidance and direction provided by the Bible. As revealed in the testimony at the hearing on this matter and in the exhibits accepted into evidence, the teachers at DCS are selected because of their ability to blend their avowed religious beliefs into every lesson and school activity. Teachers are required to be born again Christians and to carry with them into their classes the religious fervor and conviction felt necessary to stimulate young minds into accepting Christ as savior. Because of the emphasis placed on the religious education of the students, the school demands that teachers conform both in thought and conduct to the tenets and principles felt essential to leading a Christian life. The belief system espoused by the members of DCS touches every aspect of their life: work, interpersonal relationships, family and recreational activities. Deviation in any way from what is felt to be the proper religious way of life may cast doubt on a teacher's ability to perform his or her critical role and may, therefore, be grounds for dismissal.

578 F.Supp. at 1018-19.

DCS stated as its purposes "to teach all subjects in a manner to create in each student an awareness of God's Supreme authority over all creation" and "to train and prepare youth for worthy contributions to the Cause of Christ in the home, church and community." DCS Certificate of Consolidation. 7 "The major distinction of DCS is the fact that all truth is related and interpreted from God's viewpoint." Cover letter to applicants for employment. Both teachers and parents of DCS students must subscribe to the DCS Statement of Faith. 8

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Schindler confirmed that applicants who did not subscribe to the Statement of Faith would not be considered for employment. Further, Superintendent Schindler testified that "[o]ne parent in the family must be a professing Christian, must be born again. And the student in the school must be a Christian, or professing Christian." Testimony in the district court indicated that the parents' obligation to educate their children in accordance with Christian principles is biblically based. 9

The religious focus of the school is reflected in the teacher selection process and concomitant role of the teacher in the school. Schindler testified that "[t]he teacher's relationship with Jesus Christ and their life style is crucial to their subsequent employment at Dayton Christian Schools." Further, "[w]e feel that a teaching position is so crucial in our school and so vital to the performance of our ministry, that ... [b]efore we make the recommendation to the Board to hire our teachers, we must be in total harmony about that teacher's commitment to Christ and her life style and her ability to teach in our system."

Teacher Paul Pyle testified regarding his experience as a teacher at DCS.

Then I begin each class with prayer. Sometimes I begin each class with a devotional thought, something that is

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fresh to me from the Scriptures that I have gotten that day or just recently. However, if I were to tell you that that would--was the extent of the religious activities during the day, that would be misleading. In my opinion, and in my endeavors in the classroom, the entire...

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