Hall v. Baptist Memorial Health Care, 98-6761

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtPOLSTER
Citation215 F.3d 618
Parties(6th Cir. 2000) Glynda L. Hall, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation, d/b/a Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences, Defendant-Appellee. Argued:
Docket NumberNo. 98-6761,98-6761
Decision Date10 December 1999

Page 618

215 F.3d 618 (6th Cir. 2000)
Glynda L. Hall, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation, d/b/a Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 98-6761
Argued: December 10, 1999
Decided and Filed: June 13, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis; No. 98-02035--Bernice B. Donald, District Judge.

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Clyde W. Keenan, KEENAN, DABBOUS & LAZARINI, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellant.


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PRATHER, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: BOGGS and SUHRHEINRICH, Circuit Judges; POLSTER, District Judge.*


POLSTER, District Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant Glynda L. Hall sued her former employer, Defendant-Appellee Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences (the "College"), under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(5), alleging that the College unlawfully terminated her employment based on her religion. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the College. For the following reasons, we affirm.


Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation ("Health Care Corporation" or "Corporation") is a nonprofit corporation established with the purpose of "carrying out a health care mission consistent with the traditional and ongoing health care missions of the Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee Baptist Conventions and their affiliated Baptist churches with which the Corporation shares common religious bonds and convictions." Joint Appendix ("JA") 284-85. It is committed to the "threefold ministry of Christ -- preaching, teaching and healing." JA 308. To this end, the Corporation is authorized to "acquire, own, lease, manage, operate, sell, construct, finance, provide services to, generally deal with, and affiliate with or be the parent organization of separately incorporated hospitals, clinics, home health care organizations, rehabilitation centers, health maintenance organizations, hospices, nursing homes, nursing and other schools, educational organizations and institutions. . . . " JA 285.

The chief executive officer and all directors of the Health Care Corporation must be members of Baptist churches affiliated with the State Baptist Convention in the states of their residence. The Corporation submits annual reports and certified audits to the Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee Baptist Conventions. The Corporation is the parent of Baptist Memorial Hospital which, in turn, is the parent of Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences. The Corporation chooses the Hospital's board of directors which, in turn, appoints the board of directors for the College.

The Hospital's charter states that it is a nonprofit corporation organized for "charitable, educational, religious and scientific" purposes and that its purposes include "hospital and health care and education . . . in line with the traditional and ongoing mission of the Baptist churches affiliated through their State Baptist Conventions in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee with the Southern Baptist Convention as now known and practiced among Baptists." JA 297. The Hospital's bylaws state that its primary purpose is to provide "health services, education and scientific research in accordance with Christian principles as set out in [its charter] in line with the mission of the [Hospital]." JA 300. In the event of the Hospital's dissolution, all remaining assets must be transferred to the Health Care Corporation if that organization qualifies for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. If the Corporation does not qualify for tax-exempt status, the assets must be transferred to the Baptist Memorial Health Care System. If the Health Care System does not qualify for tax-exempt status, the assets must be distributed to the State Baptist Conventions of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The College was founded by the Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee Baptist

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Conventions. It receives financial support from both the Hospital and the Corporation. The College recruits students in Baptist newspapers in seven states. It also recruits students at the State Baptist Conventions in Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee.

The mission statement of the College provides that the College "is an outgrowth of the mission of Baptist Memorial Hospital, which is based on the three-fold ministry of Christ: preaching, teaching, and healing." JA 386. The motto of the College, which is incorporated in its seal, is "higher education with a higher purpose." JA 391, 920. The seal displays two hands representing service and scholarship on a Bible adjacent to a branch representing the tree of knowledge. JA 391. The College informs students of its Christian mission and its relationship with Baptist principles at orientations and open houses. Students are required to take three hours of religious studies, and to dress in a manner "that reflect[s] Christian principles of appropriateness." JA 408. The College holds prayer breakfasts and plans numerous chapel programs led by local Baptist ministers. It has served as host for the World Changers, a mission organization sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention.

On August 7, 1995, the College hired Glynda Hall as a Student Services Specialist. As a Student Services Specialist, Hall worked with students and the administration in organizing and planning activities of various campus student organizations. Hall was responsible for interpreting school policies and ensuring that all student activities were consistent with the mission of the College. JA 1106. She was required to work with the Christian student organization, coordinating its involvement with the Tennessee Baptist Convention student ministries department. This duty necessitated her attendance at meetings of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

It is undisputed that Hall was a good employee who received no disciplinary actions during the term of her employment. On June 4, 1996, she was given a performance evaluation with all "exemplary" and "accomplished" scores. JA 876-85. On June 27, 1996, she received a letter extending her contract through 1997, along with a raise.

In the spring of 1996, Hall began the process of becoming a lay minister at Holy Trinity Community Church ("Holy Trinity") -- a church she had been attending since February 1995. According to Hall, Holy Trinity is a non-denominational Christian church that reaches out to all persons seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ. The congregation includes many gay and lesbian members, including Hall. Holy Trinity teaches that there is nothing inherently inconsistent between the homosexual lifestyle and Christianity. It solicits homosexual members through advertisements in Second Stone, a national publication for gay, lesbian and bisexual Christians.

The Southern Baptist Convention is outspoken against homosexual lifestyles. Its formal resolution on the issue of homosexuality states that the Convention "deplores homosexuality as a perversion of divine standards and as a violation of nature and natural affections." JA 310. Moreover, "while God loves the homosexual and offers salvation, homosexuality is not a normal lifestyle and is an abomination in the eyes of God." Id.

In the summer of 1996, Dr. Paul Barkley, a Southern Baptist minister and Hall's supervisor, asked Hall where she attended church. She informed him that she attended Holy Trinity. Because of Barkley's suspicion that Holy Trinity condoned homosexual lifestyles and the Southern Baptist Convention's clear denunciation of such alternative lifestyles, he informed the College president, Dr. Rose Temple, about Hall's attendance there. Temple told Barkley that the College would not intervene in Hall's choice of where to attend church.

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On September 15, 1996, Hall was ordained as a lay minister at Holy Trinity. Hall did not invite Barkley to her ordination ceremony because she feared she would be fired if Barkley discovered she was a lesbian and that Holy Trinity welcomed homosexual members. Shortly after her ordination, however, she informed Barkley that she was a lesbian. Hall brought Barkley a copy of Second Stone to show him that there were a number of churches and denominations that welcomed and supported the gay and lesbian community. She showed him an advertisement in the newspaper for Holy Trinity.

Barkley relayed this information and the newspaper to Temple. Temple testified that she perceived Hall's position at the College to be one of considerable influence over students, that Holy Trinity's views on homosexuality were inconsistent with those of the Southern Baptist Convention and thus the College, and that this inconsistency created a conflict of interest. Accordingly, on November 20, 1996, Temple asked Hall to resign. Temple told Hall that if she would agree to resign, Temple would help her obtain another more appropriate position within the College, the Hospital or the Health Care Corporation for which she was qualified. Hall refused this offer and the College terminated her for a "conflict of interest." The termination took place on December 3, 1996.

Hall filed a complaint with the EEOC on January 16, 1997, and was issued a right-to-sue letter on December 5, 1997. She subsequently filed a complaint alleging employment discrimination based on religious grounds in the Western District of Tennessee on January 14, 1998. Cross motions for summary judgment were filed by the parties. On November 23, 1998, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the College and dismissed the case. Hall filed a timely appeal from the district court's decision.

Hall raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the district court erred in finding that the College was a religious institution entitled to an exemption from Title VII's...

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