Ohio Civil Rights Commission v. Dayton Christian Schools, Inc, No. 85-488

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS
Citation106 S.Ct. 2718,477 U.S. 619,91 L.Ed.2d 512
Decision Date27 June 1986
Docket NumberNo. 85-488
PartiesOHIO CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION et al., Appellants v. DAYTON CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS, INC., et al

477 U.S. 619
106 S.Ct. 2718
91 L.Ed.2d 512
OHIO CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION et al., Appellants

v.

DAYTON CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS, INC., et al.

No. 85-488.
Argued March 26, 1986.
Decided June 27, 1986.
Syllabus

Appellee Dayton Christian Schools, Inc. (Dayton), a private nonprofit corporation that provides elementary and secondary education, requires that its teachers subscribe to a particular set of religious beliefs, including belief in the internal resolution of disputes through the "Biblical chain of command." As a contractual condition of employment, teachers must agree to present any grievance to their immediate supervisor and to acquiesce in the final authority of Dayton's board of directors, rather than to pursue a remedy in civil court. After a pregnant teacher was told that her employment contract would not be renewed because of Dayton's religious doctrine that mothers should stay home with their preschool age children, she contacted an attorney, who threatened Dayton with litigation under state and federal sex discrimination laws if it did not agree to rehire the teacher for the coming school year. Dayton then rescinded its nonrenewal decision, but terminated the teacher because of her violation of the internal dispute resolution doctrine. The teacher then filed a charge with appellant Ohio Civil Rights Commission, alleging that under Ohio statutes Dayton's original nonrenewal decision constituted unlawful sex discrimination and its termination decision unlawfully penalized her for asserting her rights. Ultimately, the Commission initiated administrative proceedings against Dayton, which answered the complaint by asserting that the First Amendment prevented the Commission from exercising jurisdiction over it since its actions had been taken pursuant to sincerely held religious beliefs. While the administrative proceedings were pending, Dayton and others (also appellees here) filed this action in Federal District Court, seeking an injunction against the state administrative proceedings on the ground that any investigation of Dayton's hiring process or any imposition of sanctions for its nonrenewal or termination decisions would violate the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. Without addressing the Commission's argument that the court should abstain from exercising its jurisdiction, the District Court refused to issue an injunction, holding, inter alia, that the Commission's proposed action would not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Commission's exercise of jurisdiction would violate both

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the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Held:

1. This Court has appellate jurisdiction over this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(2), which authorizes review of a court of appeals' decision holding a state statute unconstitutional as applied to the facts of the case. Here, the Court of Appeals expressly held that the Ohio statutory provisions relied on by the teacher, as applied to authorize the administrative proceedings, were repugnant to the Religion Clauses. P. 625.

2. The District Court should have abstained from adjudicating this case under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669, and its progeny. Younger, which held that a federal court should not enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding except when necessary to prevent great and immediate irreparable injury, was based on concerns for comity and federalism. Such concerns are equally applicable to other types of state proceedings, including state administrative proceedings, judicial in nature, in which important state interests are vindicated, so long as in the course of those proceedings the federal plaintiff will have a full and fair opportunity to litigate his constitutional claim. The elimination of prohibited sex discrimination is a sufficiently important state interest to bring the present case within the ambit of the Younger doctrine, and there is no reason to doubt that Dayton will receive an adequate opportunity to raise its constitutional claims. Even assuming that Ohio law is such that the Commission may not consider the constitutionality of the statute under which it operates, it is sufficient that under Ohio law constitutional claims may be raised in state-court judicial review of the administrative proceedings. Pp. 625-629.

766 F.2d 932 (CA6 1985) reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 629.

Kathleen McManus, Columbus, Ohio, for appellants.

Page 621

William Bentley Ball, Harrisburg, Pa., for appellees.

Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellee Dayton Christian Schools, Inc. (Dayton), and various individuals brought an action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking to enjoin a pending state administrative proceeding brought against Dayton by appellant Ohio Civil Rights Commission (Commission). Dayton asserted that the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment prohibited the Commission from exercising jurisdiction over it or from punishing it for engaging in employment discrimination. The District Court refused to

Page 622

issue the 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 Clause nor the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding 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. We postponed the question of jurisdiction pending consideration of the merits. 474 U.S. 978, 106 S.Ct. 379, 88 L.Ed.2d 332 (1985). We now conclude that we have jurisdiction, and we reverse, 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).

Dayton is a private nonprofit corporation that provides education at both the elementary and secondary school levels. It was formed by two local churches, the Patterson Park Brethren Church and the Christian Tabernacle, and it is regarded as a "nondenominational" extension of the Christian education ministries of these two churches. Dayton's corporate charter establishes a board of directors (board) to lead the corporation in both spiritual and temporal matters. App. 11. The charter also includes a section entitled "Statement of Faith," which serves to restrict membership on the board and the educational staff to persons who subscribe to a particular set of religious beliefs. The Statement of Faith requires each board or staff member to be a born-again Christian and to reaffirm his or her belief annually in the Bible, the Trinity, the nature and mission of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of original sin, the role of the Holy Ghost, the resurrection and judgment of the dead, the need for Christian unity, and the divine creation of human beings. Id., at 5-6.

The board has elaborated these requirements to include a belief in the internal resolution of disputes through the "Bibli-

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cal chain of command." The core of this doctrine, rooted in passages from the New Testament, is that one Christian should not take another Christian into courts of the State. Teachers are expected to present any grievance they may have to their immediate supervisor, and to acquiesce in the final authority of the board, rather than to pursue a remedy in civil court. The board has sought to ensure compliance with this internal dispute resolution doctrine by making it a contractual condition of employment.

Linda Hoskinson was employed as a teacher at Dayton during the 1978-1979 school year. She subscribed to the Statement of Faith and expressly agreed to resolve disputes internally through the Biblical chain of command. In January 1979, she informed her principal, James Rakestraw, that she was pregnant. After consulting with his superiors, Rakestraw informed Hoskinson that her employment contract would not be renewed at the end of the school year because of Dayton's religious doctrine that mothers should stay home with their preschool age children. Instead of appealing this decision internally, Hoskinson contacted an attorney who sent a letter to Dayton's superintendent, Claude Schindler, threatening litigation based on state and federal sex discrimination laws if Dayton did not agree to rehire Hoskinson for the coming school year.

Upon receipt of this letter, Schindler informed Hoskinson that she was suspended immediately for challenging the nonrenewal decision in a manner inconsistent with the internal dispute resolution doctrine. The board reviewed this decision and decided to terminate Hoskinson. It stated that the sole reason for her termination was her violation of the internal dispute resolution doctrine, and it rescinded the earlier nonrenewal decision because it said that she had not received adequate prior notice of the doctrine concerning a mother's duty to stay home with her young children.

Hoskinson filed a complaint with appellant Ohio Civil Rights Commission (Commission), alleging that Dayton's

Page 624

nonrenewal decision constituted sex discrimination, in violation of Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4112.02(A) (Supp.1985), and that its termination decision penalized her for asserting her rights, in violation of Ohio Rev.Code Ann. § 4112.02(I) (Supp.1985). The Commission notified Dayton that it was...

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  • Mallinckrodt LLC v. Littell, No. CV-08-420-B-W.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • May 20, 2009
    ...where particular kinds of state proceedings have already been commenced." Ohio Civil Rights Comm'n v. Dayton Christian Schools, Inc., 477 U.S. 619, 626, 106 S.Ct. 2718, 91 L.Ed.2d 512 (1986); Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971). "In the absence of extraordina......
  • BEG Invs., LLC v. Alberti, Civil Action No.: 13–cv–0182 RC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 24, 2015
    ...filed this supplemental claim. Defs.' Opp'n Mot. Suppl. at 11–12 (citing Ohio Civil Rights Comm'n v. Dayton Christian Schs., Inc., 477 U.S. 619 (1986) ); see Board Order 2014–247 at 86, Defs.' Ex. K (summarily suspending Plaintiff's license “until the Board issues its final order in a futur......
  • Gilbert v. North Carolina State Bar, No. 5:09-CV-383-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • September 14, 2009
    ...may be raised in state-court judicial review of the administrative proceeding." Ohio Civil Rights Comm'n v. Dayton Christian Sch., Inc., 477 U.S. 619, 629, 106 S.Ct. 2718, 91 L.Ed.2d 512 If Younger's three elements are satisfied, a district court must abstain from interfering in the state p......
  • Smith v. Travis County Educ. Dist., Civ. No. A-92-CA-75
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • May 1, 1992
    ...quoting from Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. at 44, 91 S.Ct. at 750. 14 See Ohio Civil Rights Commission v. Dayton Christian Schools, 477 U.S. 619, 628, 106 S.Ct. 2718, 2723, 91 L.Ed.2d 512 (1986). The Court did state that there was no reason to doubt that the aggrieved party would receive an a......
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840 cases
  • Mallinckrodt LLC v. Littell, No. CV-08-420-B-W.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • May 20, 2009
    ...where particular kinds of state proceedings have already been commenced." Ohio Civil Rights Comm'n v. Dayton Christian Schools, Inc., 477 U.S. 619, 626, 106 S.Ct. 2718, 91 L.Ed.2d 512 (1986); Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971). "In the absence of extraordina......
  • BEG Invs., LLC v. Alberti, Civil Action No.: 13–cv–0182 RC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 24, 2015
    ...filed this supplemental claim. Defs.' Opp'n Mot. Suppl. at 11–12 (citing Ohio Civil Rights Comm'n v. Dayton Christian Schs., Inc., 477 U.S. 619 (1986) ); see Board Order 2014–247 at 86, Defs.' Ex. K (summarily suspending Plaintiff's license “until the Board issues its final order in a futur......
  • Gilbert v. North Carolina State Bar, No. 5:09-CV-383-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • September 14, 2009
    ...may be raised in state-court judicial review of the administrative proceeding." Ohio Civil Rights Comm'n v. Dayton Christian Sch., Inc., 477 U.S. 619, 629, 106 S.Ct. 2718, 91 L.Ed.2d 512 If Younger's three elements are satisfied, a district court must abstain from interfering in the state p......
  • Smith v. Travis County Educ. Dist., Civ. No. A-92-CA-75
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • May 1, 1992
    ...quoting from Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. at 44, 91 S.Ct. at 750. 14 See Ohio Civil Rights Commission v. Dayton Christian Schools, 477 U.S. 619, 628, 106 S.Ct. 2718, 2723, 91 L.Ed.2d 512 (1986). The Court did state that there was no reason to doubt that the aggrieved party would receive an a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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