Bangor Baptist Church v. State of Me., Dept. of Educ.

Citation576 F. Supp. 1299
Decision Date20 December 1983
Docket NumberCiv. No. 81-0180-B.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maine
PartiesBANGOR BAPTIST CHURCH, Bangor Christian Schools, Grace Baptist Church, Grace Baptist Church Schools, Falls Road Baptist Church, Falls Road Christian School, First United Baptist Church, Lee Christian Schools, Victory Baptist Church, Victory Christian Schools, Sebec Corner Christian Church, Sebec Christian Academy, Church of the Open Bible, Athens Christian Academy, Church of the Blessed Hope of Jesus Christ, New Life Academy, Windham Assembly of God, Windham Assembly Christian Academy, Calvary Foursquare Church, Gardiner Christian Academy, Reverend Herman C. Frankland, Reverend Harry P. Boyle, Reverend John Hatfield, Reverend John Allen, Reverend Glenn Speed, Jr., Reverend Daniel Dunphy, Reverend Gerald Dennis, Esmeralda J. Dennis, Reverend Adra Lovely, Jr., Richard Ryerson, Reverend Isaiah Hill, Chester L. Dana, Jr., Reverend Walter E. Fordyce, Reverend Jeffrey Clark, John D. Linnehan, Jr. and Heather M. Linnehan, Alfred R. Roussel and Lianne M. Roussel, Thomas M. Obey and Mary L. Obey, David Lavway, Bonnie C. Boyington, Eugene St. Clair, Jr., and Maine Association of Christian Schools, Plaintiffs, Defendants in Counterclaim, v. STATE OF MAINE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL SERVICES, Commissioner of Educational and Cultural Services and Members of the Maine State Board of Education, Defendants, Counterclaimants.


William B. Ball, Philip J. Murren, Harrisburg, Pa., Kevin M. Cuddy, Samuel W. Lanham, Jr., Bangor, Me., for plaintiffs, defendants in counterclaim.

Rufus Brown, Deputy Atty. Gen., William R. Stokes, Asst. Atty. Gen., Ellen E. George, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Augusta, Me., for defendants, counterclaimants.


CYR, Chief Judge.

The plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of various Maine statutes and regulations governing compulsory education and the approval of private schools. The counterclaim against the ten church schools and their pastors or administrators demands a judicial declaration that their failure or refusal to provide defendants with school approval information violates Maine law, and permanent injunctive relief requiring plaintiffs to provide the information "as a condition to continued operation of their respective schools with compulsory school age children" during the hours such children would otherwise be attending an approved school. Partial summary judgment has been granted in favor of the defendants. See Bangor Baptist Church v. State of Maine, 549 F.Supp. 1208, 1232 (D.Me.1982).

On the stipulations of the parties and on the exhibits2 and the testimony received during the eight-day trial the Court makes the findings of fact and conclusions of law contemplated by Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a).

I. History of Present Dispute

The earliest evidence of the present dispute is a March 24, 1977 letter from the administrator of Bangor Christian Schools (Bangor Christian) requesting the Maine Department of Educational and Cultural Services (Department) to exempt Bangor Christian from a Department regulation requiring private schools to submit a five-year plan for basic approval. Describing Bangor Christian as an integrated auxiliary of the Bangor Baptist Church, the administrator informed the Department that Bangor Christian believed that the regulation requiring the submission of a five-year plan went "beyond the legitimate responsibility of the State to see that each municipality provides suitable education for their sic youth." The administrator represented that Bangor Christian, an approved school,3 had "always adhered to ... governmental control" respecting the maintenance of certain minimal standards "in order to qualify as a safe, healthful, bona fide school," but that it objected to "the increasing involvement of government in the lives of private individuals and private institutions." Expressing concern that the request would "eventually involve" unnecessary and unacceptable state "control of religious instruction" and that the "humanistic and secular approach of the public education system" is diametrically opposed to the "integrated, Christian approach" at Bangor Christian, the administrator asked that Bangor Christian be permitted to control its own educational planning and direction.

Plaintiff Maine Association of Christian Schools (MACS) was founded in the spring of 1979 to promote and improve Christian school education in Maine and to defend Christian schools against perceived encroachments by state regulation.4 Plaintiff Herman C. Frankland, the pastor of Bangor Baptist Church, became President of MACS, and Ralph Yarnell became its Executive Director.

On May 15, 1979, MACS called a general meeting of its member schools to discuss the "right position of Christian Schools in Maine" with respect to state approval. Defendants' Exhibit 1. At that meeting MACS members5 voted to pay $1,200 to have two lawyers and an educator address them the following month and "to give ... counsel with regard to philosophy, strategy etc.," id. Meanwhile, MACS members unanimously voted to take no official position regarding state approval. Schools choosing "to buck state approval in the meantime would be doing so without any backing from MACS." Id.

On June 8, 1979 John McLario, Esq., a Wisconsin attorney specializing in the representation of Christian schools, addressed the MACS Board of Directors and the MACS constituency. On June 23, 1979 Dr. Paul Cates, an evangelist and former vice president of the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS), addressed the administrators and pastors of all MACS-member schools, as well as many church and church school-board members. On June 29, 1979 the group was addressed by David Gibbs, Esq., of Gibbs & Craze (Cleveland), which specializes in representing religious schools involved in disputes with state regulators. These three individuals informed the MACS administrators and pastors as to the constitutional standards governing state regulation of church schools.

On August 1, 1979 Wallace LaFountain, a consultant to the Department, invited the administrators of all Christian schools in Maine to an August 13, 1979 conference to discuss the certification of Christian-school principals, the approval of Christian-school curricula and the church-school approval process itself. As of August 5, 1979 all Christian schools known to be operating in Maine with compulsory-school-age children in attendance during normal public-school hours had obtained state approval.6 At that time several new Christian schools proposed to operate during the 1979-80 school year without obtaining state approval.

On August 5, 1979 Reverend Frankland notified all MACS-member pastors and administrators of an emergency meeting to be held August 10, 1979 for the purpose of determining the position MACS should take at a meeting scheduled with state officials for August 13.

On August 7, 1979 the MACS Board of Directors drafted a four-point plan for presentation to the Department as an alternative to formal school approval of the eight new Christian schools scheduled to open that fall. The plan called for a one-year moratorium on the state school-approval requirements, during which the new Christian schools would

1. receive the approval of the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Human Services prior to opening;

2. permit Department officials to conduct on-site observation of the schools in operation;

3. teach a "bona fide curriculum" meeting the requirements of Maine law; and

4. employ teachers qualified for state certification.

During the one-year moratorium MACS would seek legislative exemption from the statutory requirement of school approval. Tr. at 66.

On August 8, 1979 Department consultant LaFountain met with MACS representatives to determine their position regarding state approval of church schools. MACS officials informed LaFountain that their church schools were integral parts of their religious ministries and not susceptible, either on constitutional or biblical authority, to state control, because acquiescence to any form of state approval of church-school teachers, principals or curricula would violate their biblically-based religious conviction that Christ, not the state, is sole sovereign in such matters. The MACS representatives announced that the as-yet unapproved church schools would reject state approval because acquiescence to state approval might imply a state right-of-control, and because acquiescence might later be used in court to demonstrate that their professed religious beliefs regarding state control were based on nonreligious preferences, rather than religious conviction. LaFountain was then informed of the MACS four-point plan. See Defendants' Exhibit 4.

The factors which influenced plaintiffs to adopt the position taken at the August 8, 1979 meeting included: (1) a January 1978 statement issued by NERAACS, setting forth objections to state approval; (2) an increase in the number of requirements for school approval; (3) the nationwide growth of the teaching program known as Accelerated Christian Education (ACE);7 (4) a growing awareness that fundamentalist Christians in other states were involved in challenges to similar statutes; (5) a concern that the approval laws were vague; and (6) a maturation of fundamentalist Christian convictions regarding the total sovereignty of Christ over the church and its ministries. Tr. at 20-21, 219-21, 241-43, 504-13.

When the unapproved church schools planning to open in the fall of 1979 expressed their desire to join MACS, but advised that they could not accept state approval, the members of MACS decided to stand beside the new church schools in opposition to state approval. Tr. at 221.

On August 13, 1979, 88 Christian educators and pastors attended a conference with Department officials, who expressed satisfaction with the...

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