Young Life Campaign v. Patino

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation176 Cal.Rptr. 23,122 Cal.App.3d 559
Decision Date31 July 1981
PartiesThe YOUNG LIFE CAMPAIGN, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Douglas X. PATINO, as Director, etc., Defendant and Appellant. MOUNT HERMON ASSOCIATION, INC., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Douglas X. PATINO, as Director, etc., Defendant and Appellant. Civ. 19408, Civ. 19409.

George Deukmejian, Atty. Gen., Edward P. Hollingshead and Derry L. Knight, Deputy Attys. Gen., for defendant and appellant.

Turner & Sullivan, Richard K. Turner, Sacramento, for plaintiffs and respondents.

BLEASE, Associate Justice.

The Director of the Employment Development Department of the State of California (director) appeals from judgments 1 which determined that taxpayers, Young Life Campaign (an evangelical Christian organization primarily concerned with adolescents) and Mount Hermon Association, Inc. (which operates a camp in the Santa Cruz mountains to which families and groups subscribing to its nondenominational Christian

"Statement of Faith" go for religious conferences and retreats), were "church(es)" within the meaning of section 634.5, subdivision (a), of the Unemployment Insurance Code, which excludes from coverage under the unemployment and disability insurance laws services performed for " (1) a church or convention or association of churches, or (2) an organization which is operated primarily for religious purposes and which is operated, supervised, controlled, or principally supported by a church or convention or association of churches." 2 The director contends that the trial court erred in interpreting the term "church" to embrace taxpayers because they "perform( ) functions identical to traditional churches in purpose, Bible, creed, doctrine, and worship." He urges us to adopt a narrower definition. We affirm the judgments.

Taxpayer Young Life Campaign ("Young Life") is an incorporated nonprofit Christian youth organization having no official connection with any denominational church body. It was founded in 1941 by a Presbyterian minister for the purpose, according to its articles, of supporting "a benevolent, charitable, educational and missionary undertaking, particularly to encourage Christian young people to continue their spiritual life, which shall be manifested in Bible study, prayer and consistent Christian living." 3

A major element of Young Life's activities in pursuit of its purpose is a weekly "club meeting." It is usually conducted at a private home by a member of the Young Life staff (many of whom are ministers ordained by denominational churches), or by a volunteer leader. "Club meetings" usually begin with several songs, followed by a skit or game or other "fun time," then perhaps some announcements or a participant's "shar(ing of) his own faith," and then a "club talk" or sermon by the leader, followed by more songs. The meetings are held in the evening and last about an hour.

There are also weekly "campaigner" meetings, often in a private home, at which adolescents who have progressed to the point of "accept(ing) the Christian faith" engage in Bible study, enjoy the fellowship of others sharing their commitment and discuss life and the Christian faith. In addition Young Life subscribes to a nondenominational Christian Statement of Faith, to which all but perhaps 100 of Young Life's total staff of 650, including all of its management and ministerial staff, as well as its board of trustees, must adhere. The board includes several pastors of denominational churches as well as laymen. Young Life does not ordain ministers, but its executive director, all of its 5 divisional and 22 regional directors and a majority of its 350 area directors (local ministerial staff) were ordained, either by a denominational church or by an ordaining body such as the Evangelical Christian Alliance. Its field staff undergo a six-month graduate course at Young Life's Institute of Youth Ministries at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, unless they are graduates of a seminary. There are another 200 to 250 direct ministry staff. In addition, about 5,000 college students and adult volunteers, some of them ordained ministers, supplement Young Life's field staff. These volunteers are trained by the local area directors and must subscribe to the Young Life Statement of Faith. From time to time the ordained ministers administer sacraments, such as baptism, marriage and the Eucharist.

Young Life conducts many weekend and week-long excursions at its various camps, at which religious programs and personal counseling are combined with recreational activities. Young Life also operates five facilities caring for runaways.

About 60,000 adolescents participate in Young Life activities each week, some 80 percent of whom are not affiliated with a denominational church. Young Life works closely with denominational churches and encourages its participants to develop ties to them, partly because its ministry is primarily directed to adolescents (though it has recently expanded its ministry to adults). It does not seek to "convert" adolescents to the Young Life "church" or to "compete" with more traditional churches, but rather seeks to lead them to accept the Christian faith. It does not ask them, specifically, to subscribe to the Young Life Statement of Faith, but it conveys the essential content of the statement in "club talks" and counseling with adolescents interested in "commit(ting)" themselves to Christ. Young Life did not hold itself out as a church in 1972 and, in fact, in one brochure it affirmatively stated that it was not a church, because the adolescents whom it sought to reach reacted negatively to traditional churches.


Taxpayer Mount Hermon Association, Inc. ("Mount Hermon"), is a nonprofit corporation, founded in 1906 and incorporated in 1929, which operates a complex of nondenominational Christian conference centers in a forest setting in the Santa Cruz mountains. Its purpose is to propagate the Christian gospel and nurture the faith of those who have accepted it. According to its articles of incorporation, its purpose is: " '(1) To organize, promote, maintain and control the Mount Hermon Summer Assembly and other meetings and conventions for biblical, missionary, evangelistic, and educational purposes; (P) (2) To organize, promote, maintain and control Missionary and evangelistic enterprises, schools, colleges, hospitals, and other Christian agencies of similar character for the public spiritual and moral good." Mount Hermon considers its rustic setting and the fact that people usually stay there for several days at a time to be useful in communicating its Christian message.

Mount Hermon operates three contiguous camps (Redwood Camp, Ponderosa Lodge and Mount Hermon Center), whose programs are directed, respectively, toward elementary and junior high school students, high school and college students, and adults. The facilities are open year-round, but are used most intensively through the summer. Programs include conferences for pastors, families and single adults, and Bible study. A typical summer family program lasts a week and involves morning services and religious discussion for adults and child-care and Sunday school classes for children, afternoon recreational activities, and an evening service. Activities at Redwood Camp Sunday worship services are held year-round, usually by Mount Hermon staff members. During the summer these "typical Protestant" services are heavily attended, with 1,000 to 2,000 participants each week; during the winter the services may be attended by as few as 15 to 20 people and are sometimes permitted to be conducted by the particular conference group. Nevertheless, a number of people who live nearby attend services at Mount Hermon substantially every Sunday, some tithe to it and many people come every summer to Mount Hermon. Ministers on Mount Hermon's staff dispense the sacraments of baptism, communion and matrimony, though Mount Hermon does not promulgate rigid forms for their dispensation, leaving that to the ministers who have varying denominational backgrounds. The ministers visit hospitals and make home visits. Mount Hermon also operates a Sunday school on the grounds for all ages.

and Ponderosa Lodge combine recreation and religious discussions and personal counseling, moderated by counselors, most of whom are not ordained, though many are seminary students.

All of Mount Hermon's 35 staff members (which includes six or seven ministers, as well as cooks, housekeepers and administrative and clerical personnel) and its board of trustees must subscribe to a nondenominational Christian Statement of Faith. In order to use Mount Hermon's facilities, a group must conform to the Statement of Faith, though individuals need not, since to require such adherence would defeat Mount Hermon's evangelistic purposes. Mount Hermon considers itself "interdenominational," in that it is "concerned about the whole denominational spectrum." It therefore declines to become involved in denominational disputes or to "convert" people from traditional churches. It numbers among its "congregation" everyone who has a "continuing interest" in Mount Hermon.


Following the amendment of Unemployment Insurance Code section 634.5 in 1971, Young Life was assessed $3,386.58 in disability insurance taxes by the director's predecessor agency; it chose to take advantage of a provision permitting nonprofit organizations to contribute to the unemployment insurance fund on an "added cost of benefits paid" basis. (Unemp. Ins. Code § 803, subd. (b)(1); 26 U.S.C. §§ 3304(a)(b)(B), 3309(a)(2).) Mount Hermon was similarly assessed, in the sum of $5,316.88. Both organizations were found by Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board referees to be "churches," but the decisions were reversed by the board. (In re Young Life Campaign, Precedent Tax Decision, P-T-337 (1977);...

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    ...of chaplains as, for example, by choosing to pay chaplains only from established denominations. (See Young Life Campaign v. Patino (1981) 122 Cal.App.3d 559, 176 Cal.Rptr. 23.) It must act on the basis of neutral standards regarding the size of the inmate population to be served and the dem......
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