Christ the King Regional High School v. Culvert, No. 82 Civ. 8233 (VLB).

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtThomas P. Schnitzler, Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman, New York City, for plaintiff
Citation644 F. Supp. 1490
PartiesCHRIST THE KING REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL, Plaintiff, v. Edward R. CULVERT, individually and as Chairman of the New York State Labor Relations Board, and John J. Fanning, individually and as a member of the New York State Labor Relations Board, an agency of the Department of Labor of the State of New York, Defendants, and Lay Faculty Association, Local 1261, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, Intervenor.
Docket NumberNo. 82 Civ. 8233 (VLB).
Decision Date30 September 1986

644 F. Supp. 1490

CHRIST THE KING REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL, Plaintiff,
v.
Edward R. CULVERT, individually and as Chairman of the New York State Labor Relations Board, and John J. Fanning, individually and as a member of the New York State Labor Relations Board, an agency of the Department of Labor of the State of New York, Defendants,
and
Lay Faculty Association, Local 1261, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, Intervenor.

No. 82 Civ. 8233 (VLB).

United States District Court, S.D. New York.

September 30, 1986.


Thomas P. Schnitzler, Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman, New York City, for plaintiff.

Evelyn M. Tenenbaum, Asst. Atty. Gen., New York City, for defendants.

Robert M. Gordon, Gordon & Librie, New York City, for intervenor.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

VINCENT L. BRODERICK, District Judge.

Plaintiff Christ the King Regional High School ("Christ the King" or "the School") has moved for summary judgment pursuant to F.R.Civ.P. 56, seeking a declaratory judgment that defendant New York State Labor Relations Board ("SLRB")1 cannot

644 F. Supp. 1491
assert jurisdiction over the School and the lay teachers it employs, and a permanent injunction prohibiting the SLRB from asserting such jurisdiction

Defendant SLRB has cross-moved for summary judgment on the basis that the application of the New York State Labor Relations Act ("SLRA" or "the Act") to lay teachers in parochial schools violates neither the Free Exercise nor the Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment, and that the SLRB is not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") from exercising jurisdiction over church-operated schools. The defendant-intervenor, the Lay Faculty Association, Local 1261 ("Association") has joined in the defendant's cross-motion.

For the reasons that follow, I deny plaintiff's motion, grant defendant's cross-motion, and dismiss the complaint.

I.

Since this case has been submitted, the Supreme Court opinion has been rendered in Ohio Civil Rights Commission v. Dayton Christian Schools, Inc., ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 2718, 91 L.Ed.2d 512 (1986).

In that case, Dayton Christian Schools, Inc. ("Dayton"), an elementary and secondary school which had been formed by two churches, sought to enjoin, on Free Exercise and Establishment Clause grounds, a pending state administrative proceeding against it.

Each member of Dayton's staff was required to be a born-again Christian and to subscribe to various religious tenets. A teacher who had duly subscribed to those tenets was terminated, and filed a complaint with the state Civil Rights Commission, alleging sex discrimination. The Commission determined that there was probable cause to believe that the teacher was discriminated against on the basis of her sex. It initiated formal administrative proceedings when the school failed to respond, either by acquiescence or by counterproposal, to a proposed conciliation agreement and consent order.

Dayton then sought, in federal court, "a permanent injunction of the state proceedings on the ground that any investigation of Dayton's hiring process or any imposition of sanctions for Dayton's nonrenewal or termination decisions would violate the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment." Id., 106 S.Ct. at 2722. The Commission moved to dismiss, urging abstention but also defending its action on the merits.

The district court refused to issue an injunction, "on grounds that any conflict between the First Amendment and the administrative proceedings was not yet ripe, and that in any case the proposed action of the Commission violated neither the Free Exercise nor the Establishment Clause of the First and Fourteenth Amendments." Id., 106 S.Ct. at 2720. The Sixth Circuit reversed. It held that "the exercise of jurisdiction and the enforcement of the statute would impermissibly burden appellees' rights under the Free Exercise Clause and would result in excessive entanglement under the Establishment Clause." Id.

The Supreme Court reversed, "holding that the District Court should have abstained under our cases beginning with Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971)." Id.

On the authority of Dayton Christian Schools, Inc. I should therefore abstain from deciding the First Amendment issues, if a request for such abstention has been duly presented.

While abstention is adverted to in SLRB's answer, it has not been urged in the argument with respect to these motions, except in a post-submission letter reference to the Dayton Christian Schools, Inc. case. I shall, therefore, deal with the motions on the merits.

II.

Christ the King, a school affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church,2 is located in

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Middle Village, Queens. It has an enrollment of approximately 1800 students. The school employs both religious and lay teachers, and both secular and religious subjects are taught there

Plaintiff stresses Christ the King's religious orientation: its students are required to take four years of religion and to attend mass; crucifixes and other religious symbols are displayed in classrooms and in hallways; the school has a full-time spiritual director available to students; there is a chapel on the premises where mass is conducted daily; and the school's "Spiritual Director and other members of the faculty (both lay and religious) encourage students and faculty during homeroom to communicate with God by completing a `working contract'".

Defendant-intervenor Association contests the so-called "religious mission" of the school. It insists that no effort is made to require teachers of religion to conform to Catholic doctrine; that the school does not require students to attend mass; and that students are not encouraged to complete so-called "working contracts." Lay teachers were hired without regard to their religion, according to the Association, and a number of non-Catholic lay teachers worked at the school for many years. The Association notes that during the 1980-81 academic year, the last in which members of the Association were at the school, all but one of the members of the Board of Trustees were laymen and there were some 105 lay teachers, as against only four teachers who were members of religious communities. The Association asserts that the school continues to employ lay teachers without regard to religion.

Seventy-three lay teachers, represented by the Association, filed individual unfair labor practice charges against the school with the SLRB on February 18, 1982. They alleged that the school had unlawfully refused to bargain with the Association and had unlawfully discharged members of the school's faculty in violation of the SLRA.

The SLRB issued a formal complaint against the school on October 29, 1982, alleging that the school had violated the SLRA. Specifically, the complaint alleged that "since on or before September 3, 1981, the school had failed and refused, and continues to fail and refuse, to meet, confer, discuss and negotiate in good faith with the Association for the purposes of collective bargaining...." It further alleged that the school discharged 60 lay employees and refused to reinstate them because they engaged in concerted activities for collective bargaining purposes.3

On December 1, 1982 the school moved before the SLRB for an order dismissing the complaint on the basis that the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") had exclusive jurisdiction over the school. This action was commenced on December 10, 1982.4 The SLRB denied the motion to dismiss on January 6, 1983. At the same time, however, the SLRB granted plaintiff's motion to postpone the SLRB proceedings until I issued a decision in this action.

Between 1979 and 1982, the Association had filed four unfair labor practice charges against the plaintiff with the NLRB. None of these charges involved any religious issues,5 and all were either settled or withdrawn.

644 F. Supp. 1493
On December 17, 1982 the Association filed a petition with the NLRB seeking an advisory opinion as to whether plaintiff, because of its religious character, would be exempt from the jurisdiction of the NLRB. The NLRB refused to issue an advisory opinion and dismissed the petition.6

III.

Plaintiff contends that the SLRB's assertion of jurisdiction over plaintiff violates the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and that even if there is no constitutional bar the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") preempts the SLRB from asserting jurisdiction.

Plaintiff argues that I must reach the First Amendment issues that are raised because amendments to the SLRA provide for SLRB jurisdiction over employees of church-operated schools. It urges that the SLRA and the NLRA are fundamentally similar, and that I should follow the Supreme Court's reasoning on the constitutional issues as raised in NLRA cases.

Invoking a three-tier analysis employed by the Supreme Court to resolve Free Exercise Clause questions, plaintiff argues: (1) that the nature and extent to which the SLRB's assertion of jurisdiction burdens the free exercise of the plaintiff's religious beliefs is clear; (2) that the state cannot justify the burden...

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2 practice notes
  • New York State Employment Relations Bd. v. Christ the King Regional High School
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • 12 Junio 1997
    ...The District Court dismissed the School's complaint, rejecting both claims (Christ the King Regional High School v. Culvert, 644 F.Supp. 1490 [S.D.N.Y.] ), and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed (815 F.2d 219, cert. denied 484 U.S. 830, 108 S.Ct. 102, 98 L.Ed.2d 63), without addre......
  • Christ the King Regional High School v. Culvert, AFL-CI
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 26 Marzo 1987
    ...The district court denied the School's motion, granted the SLRB defendants' and LFA's cross-motion, and dismissed the complaint. 644 F.Supp. 1490. Although the SLRB defendants raised the issue of abstention in their answer as well as in a letter submitted to the court prior to the dispositi......
2 cases
  • New York State Employment Relations Bd. v. Christ the King Regional High School
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • 12 Junio 1997
    ...The District Court dismissed the School's complaint, rejecting both claims (Christ the King Regional High School v. Culvert, 644 F.Supp. 1490 [S.D.N.Y.] ), and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed (815 F.2d 219, cert. denied 484 U.S. 830, 108 S.Ct. 102, 98 L.Ed.2d 63), without addre......
  • Christ the King Regional High School v. Culvert, AFL-CI
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 26 Marzo 1987
    ...The district court denied the School's motion, granted the SLRB defendants' and LFA's cross-motion, and dismissed the complaint. 644 F.Supp. 1490. Although the SLRB defendants raised the issue of abstention in their answer as well as in a letter submitted to the court prior to the dispositi......

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