Bangor Baptist Church v. STATE OF ME., ETC., Civ. A. No. 81-0180-B.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
Citation549 F. Supp. 1208
Decision Date26 October 1982
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 81-0180-B.
PartiesBANGOR BAPTIST CHURCH, et al., Plaintiffs, v. STATE OF MAINE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL SERVICES, and Harold Raynolds, Jr., Commissioner, Defendants.



Kevin M. Cuddy, Bangor, Me., William B. Ball, Philip J. Murren, Kathleen A. O'Malley, Harrisburg, Pa., for plaintiffs.

Ellen E. George, William R. Stokes, Asst. Attys. Gen., Augusta, Me., for defendants.


CYR, District Judge.

The Court is presented with a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, which is accompanied by matters outside the pleadings, not excluded by the Court, and is to be treated as a motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b). Medina v. Rudman, 545 F.2d 244, 247 (1st Cir.1976). The parties have supplemented the record, both before and after oral argument, with affidavits and memoranda of law.

The plaintiffs include fundamentalist Christian churches, teachers, pastors, parents and an association of fundamentalist Christian schools. The defendants are the Maine Department of Educational and Cultural Services Department and the Commissioner of Educational and Cultural Services Commissioner.

The amended complaint, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as costs and counsel fees, alleges that certain provisions of the Maine Compulsory Education Law,1 20 M.R.S.A. §§ 102.7, 911.3, 1281 & 1286, are violative of the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

The fundamental statutory provision brought under constitutional challenge by the plaintiffs is 20 M.R.S.A. § 911, which requires every child between the ages of 7 and 172 to attend a public school, unless receiving "equivalent instruction in a private school ... provided the equivalent instruction is approved by the commissioner."

Title 20, Maine Revised Statutes Annotated, section 102.7, which directs the defendant commissioner, inter alia, to "... prescribe the studies to be taught in the public schools and in the private schools approved for attendance ..."3 and permits the Commissioner to "remove basic approval from any school for cause," is also assertedly unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs further challenge various requirements for the approval of private secondary schools imposed pursuant to 20 M.R. S.A. § 1281 (Supp.1981), which mandates that "the secondary schools of this State shall be evaluated for basic approval ..." and establishes ten basic requirements.4 The specific requirements for state approval of private secondary schools to which plaintiffs object are: (1) that each school maintain "a course of study approved by the defendant commissioner;"5 (2) that each school employ "only certified teachers;"6 and (3) that each school have "a pupil-teacher ratio of not more than 30 to one."7

Plaintiffs contend that the Commissioner has sought to impose these statutory requirements and various regulations promulgated in furtherance thereof upon plaintiffs' church-schools. Plaintiffs assert that they have refused to comply for reasons of religious conviction, insofar as the statutes and regulations require greater burdens than plaintiffs acknowledge to be the lawful province of the defendants to impose. Plaintiffs insist that compliance would substantially limit and interfere with their religious mission and permit state surveillance of church-schools, review of their church-school programs and other excessive entanglements.

The amended complaint pleads constitutional violations in five counts: (1) violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and denial of parental rights guaranteed by the Ninth Amendment; (2) violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment; (3) violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, in that the challenged statutes and regulations promulgated thereunder are "impermissibly vague, overbroad, ultra vires and improperly delegate legislative authority to administrative personnel;" (4) violation of the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments, by depriving plaintiffs of parental, property, and enterprise rights; and (5) violation of the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments, by denying plaintiffs their rights "in education to express, transmit, or receive ideas."

The defendants deny most of the material allegations of the amended complaint for the reason that they are without sufficient knowledge or information upon which to form a belief as to the truth of the matters asserted. Defendants invoke the ancillary jurisdiction of the Court by way of counterclaim against nine church-school plaintiffs and against persons, known and unknown to defendants, charged with the direction of the church-school defendants-in-counterclaim, for declaratory and injunctive relief aimed at the implementation of the compulsory education laws of the State of Maine. The second claim for relief asserted in defendants' counterclaim seeks a judicial declaration that certain church-school plaintiffs cannot qualify for initial school approval absent prior compliance with state health, sanitation, fire, and safety requirements. Plaintiffs admit that the nine church-school defendants-in-counterclaim are operating private schools without the approval of the Commissioner and that they have refused to provide the information required by the Commissioner, except information relating to state fire, safety, health and sanitation standards.8 By way of affirmative defense to the counterclaims, the defendants-in-counterclaim reassert each of the constitutional claims alleged in their amended complaint and further allege that the plaintiffs-in-counterclaim will suffer no irreparable harm and have an adequate remedy at law.


Title 20 M.R.S.A. § 911.1.A mandates that "every child between his 7th and 17th birthdays shall attend a public day school during the time it is in session." However, "a child shall be excused from attending a public day school if he obtains equivalent instruction in a private school ... if the equivalent instruction is approved by the commissioner." 20 M.R.S.A. § 911(3)(A). For purposes of exercising his statutory responsibility under this provision, the Commissioner is guided by: (1) the regulations of the State Board of Education,9 issued pursuant to 20 M.R.S.A. § 51(3)(B), establishing requirements for approval of elementary and secondary schools; (2) the regulations of the Board, issued under 20 M.R. S.A. § 59, regarding certification of teachers; (3) the studies required to be taught, as prescribed in 20 M.R.S.A. § 102(7); (4) the rules issued by the Commissioner regarding such studies; (5) the requirements for approval of secondary schools, established by 20 M.R.S.A. § 1281; and (6) various provisions of title 22 M.R.S.A. and of the rules and regulations of the Department of Human Services, prescribing state health and sanitation standards applicable to schools, and of the Life Safety Code, containing fire safety standards issued by the Department of Public Safety pursuant to title 25 M.R.S.A.

The Department issues regulations, codified at 05-071 CMR 127, sections 1 and 2, prescribing the minimum instructional requirements for public schools and for private schools approved for attendance purposes under 20 M.R.S.A. § 911(3).

The qualification and procedural requirements for teacher certification are set forth in the regulations of the Department, codified at 05-071 CMR 115. The regulations governing school evaluation procedures and prescribing standards for obtaining school approval are codified at 05-071 CMR 125, as modified by an "Addendum" issued in September, 1981 which further explains the procedures for obtaining private sectarian school approval. These three sets of regulations are at the heart of plaintiffs' constitutional challenges and for that reason are summarized in the Appendix.


Defendants insist that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact respecting any of plaintiffs' claims for relief and that defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiffs have not moved for summary judgment on any of their claims for relief or on either of defendants' counterclaims. Defendants assert that their supporting affidavits have not been met by the plaintiffs with opposing affidavits setting forth specific facts raising any genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). For their part, plaintiffs point out that the pending motion may not be used as a vehicle for turning an adversary proceeding into a trial by affidavit, see Thyssen Plastik Anger KG v. Induplas, Inc., 576 F.2d 400, 402 (1st Cir.1978); Redman v. Warrener, 516 F.2d 766, 768 (1st Cir.1975), and that the parties are entitled to try the material facts in genuine dispute, see Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1, 6, 65 S.Ct. 1416, 1418, 89 L.Ed. 2013 (1945).

Defendants must satisfy the Court that there are no material facts in dispute, see Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970); Ramsay v. Cooper, 553 F.2d 237, 240 n. 8 (1st Cir.1977), and that defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law in light of all undisputed facts and any reasonable inferences which may be drawn from those facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, see Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. at 157, 90 S.Ct. at 1608; Creative Environments, Inc. v. Estabrook, 680 F.2d 822, 829 (1st Cir.1982). Summary judgment must be denied where there remains the slightest doubt as to any material fact. United States v. Del Monte De Puerto Rico, Inc., 586 F.2d 870, 872 (1st Cir. 1978); Peckham v. Ronrico Corp., 171 F.2d 653, 657 (1st Cir. 1948). There are numerous material facts in genuine dispute and, with but few exceptions, it is far from clear that defendants are entitled to...

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19 cases
  • Bangor Baptist Church v. State of Me., Dept. of Educ., Civ. No. 81-0180-B.
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    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • December 20, 1983 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 tri......
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