Supreme Court: Church-State Cases, October 1983 Term

MINI BRIEF N U M B E R M B 8 3 2 4 2 AUTHOR: David M. Ackerman American L a w Division THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE MAJOR ISSUES SYSTEM DATE ORIGINATED 10/24/83 DATE UPDATED 12/14/83 FOR INFORMATION CALL CRS- 1 ISSUE DEFINITION The Supreme C o u r t , in its 1983-84 t e r m , has to date agreed to review one Case that involves issues arising under either the establishment or the f r e e exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment. The case concerns the constitutionality o f a municipality sponsoring and paying for a Christmas display in a downtown park which included a nativity scene a s a central part. In addition, the Court has denied review in twelve cases raising establishment or f r e e exercise issues and has made no decision whether to review seven other cases raising such issues. BACKGROUND PENDING CASES GRANTED REVIEW Lynch v. D o n n e l l y , 5 2 5 F - S u p p . 1150 (D.R.1. 1981), a f f ' d , 6 9 1 ~ . 2 d 1029 (1st Cir. 1982), cert. gr., 103 S.Ct. 1 7 6 6 (4-18-83) (No. 82-'1256): At issue ownership a n d erection of a nativity scene in this case is whether a city's a s part of its a n n u a l outdoor Christmas display violates the establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment. Each year for 4 0 years the city of park. P a w t u c k e t , Rhode I s l a n d , constructed a Christmas display in a downtown (with Included in the display were a "talkingw wishing w e l l , a S a n t a l s House a l i v e Santa), a small village, a grouping of c a r o l e r / m u s ~ c i a n f i g u r e s , and a life-sized nativity scene. The nativity s c e n e was purchased with city money and was maintained and erected each year by city workers. Upon suit both a Federal district court a n d , on a p p e a l , the Un.ited States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held the inclusion of the nativity scene to be unconstitutional. Analyzing t h e , m a t t e r under the tripartite test of purpose, primary effect, and entanglement, the trial court found the evidence not to support the city's claims that Christmas had become a wholly secular holiday and that the creche had l o s t its religious significance.' The c o u r t ' r e j e c t e d a s well the city's arguments that inclusion of the creche simply served the secular purpose of drawing shoppers to the downtown areao r , alternatively, that it was merely a n example of how Americans celebrated Christmas. "Christmas," the court f o u n d , "remains a major spiritual feast day for most sects of Christiansw and the creche retains a "fundamentally religious significance." While government may constitutionally involve itself with activities having a religious aspect under certain c i r c u m s t a n c e s , the Court f o u n d , the purpose of i n c l u d i n g . a nativity scene i n the ChristSmas display i n this c a s e w a s '"to express the C i t y ' s approval and endorsement of the religious message that the symbol convey^.^' Similarly,.. the court helcl, the primary effect of including the nativity scene was to g i v e the "appearance of a n official imprimatur on t h e religious message of the creche and on Christian beliefs, thereby aiding the Christian religion- and violating vis the C i t y ' s constitutional duty to maintain a neutral position vis Christians, non-Ch.ristians, and non-believers." On th-e entanglement issue, the court found no administrative entanglement to be created by the city's inclusion of the c r e c h e , but i t did find that political division along religious lines had been precipitated: "...the atmosphere has been a horrifying one of a n g e r , hostility, name c a l l i n g , and political maneuvering, a l l prompted by the f a c t that someone had questioned'the C i t y ' s ownership and a CRS- 2 The court noted that such political division display of a religious symbol." was not itself sufficient to invalidate the city's a c t i o n , but said i t w a s a For a l l these "warning signal" of a possible establishment clause violation. reasons, the Court held the city's sponsorship of the nativity scene to be unconstitutional. The appellate court a f f i r m e d , 2 - 1 , but used a different framework of analysis. Instead of the tripartite test used by the trial c o u r t , the appellate court employed a strict scrutiny a n a l y s i s , meaning that the city's sponsorship of the nativity scene could pass constitutional muster only if shown to serve a compelling governmental interest and if "closely fitted1' to furthering that interest. The appellate court said the latter test was mandated by the Supreme Court's decision i n Lar'son v. Valente, 4 5 6 U.S.- 228 (19821, for use i n cases such as this one which involved governmental a c t s that discriminated among religions. On the constitutional i s s u e , the appellate court found the trial court's findings regarding the purpose of including the creche conclusive: "If one is unable t o demonstrate any legitimate purpose or i n t e r e s t , it is hardly necessary to inquire whether a Compelling purpose or interest can be shown." The dissenting judge argued that Christmas and all of its symbols, including the c r e c h e , have become part Of Our national life and culture and that including the creche as part of a display of items associated with Christmas does nothing more than announce that the holiday is at hand. After granting the United States permission to a r g u e the case on the of the municipality, the Court heard oral argument on Oct. 4 , 1983. side J a f f r e e , 705 Board of School Commissioners of Mobile C o u n t y , Alabama v. F.2d 1526 (11th Cir.), pet. for cert. f i l e d , 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3441 (11-14-83,): Lower court held unconstitutional teachers' p r a c t i c e s , which had been condoned by school board, of leading students in prayer during school day. pet. for Clifford V. Grutka, 4 4 5 N.E.2d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App., 3d Dist.), Cert. f i l e d , 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3399 (11-1-83) (No. 83-736): Appellate court held that First Amendment did not preclude trial court from adjudicating bishop's claim that trust established f o r the perpetual care of t h e parish cemetery should be dissolved and t h e funds turned over to the parish. Duro v. District Attorney, Second Judicial District of North C a r o l i n a , 7 1 2 F.2d 96. (4th Cir.), pet. for cert. f i l e d , 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3387 (10-12-83) (No. 83-719): Lower court held that free exercise clause did not bar the state from prosecuting a Pentecostal parent who refused to send his children to public or private school for violating compulsory education statute, notwithstanding that refusal was based on parent's personal religious beliefs. Hopi Indian Tribe v. B l o c k , 708 F.2d 875 (D.C. C i pet. for cert. court held that 3310 (10-7-83) (No. 83-589) : Lower f i l e d , 5 2 U.S..L.W. Indians' f r e e exercise of religion rights would not be disrupted by recreational development of national forest lands that Indians used for certain religious practices. Navajo Medicinemen's Association v. Block, 7 0 8 F.2d 7 3 5 (D.C. Cir..), pet. for cert. f i l e d , 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3344 (10-21-83) (No. 83-669): Lower court held that Indians' f r e e exercise rights were not violated .by Forest S e r v i c e ' s CRS- 3 MB83242 UPDATE-12/14/83 Scott V . ' ~ o S e n b e r g , 7 0 2 F.26 1263 (9th Cir.), pet. ior cert. f i l e d , 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3190 and 329'4 (9-1-83 and 10-11-83) (Nos. 83-373 and 83-570): Lower Court held public interest in prevention of fraud to outweigh minister's f r e e exercise Claims i n F C C investigation of church's TV and radio stations f o r fraudulent solicitations of funds and dismissed his suit f o r damages and injunctive relief. filed, 52 Wallace v. J a f f r e e , 7 0 5 F.2d 1 5 2 6 (11th.Cir.) , pet. for cert. unconstitutional a s U.S.L.W. 3441 (11-14-83 ) (No. 83-8 12) : Lower court held a prescribed establishments of relig ion two St a t e statutes, one of which of particular prayer to be recited b Y t eachers and students a t the beginning a moment of silence for each school d a y , the s e cond of wh ich prescribed T h e Justice Department has purposes of "meditation or volunt a r y prayer. of the petition for certior a r i su pport filed a n amicus brief i n partial asking that the Court r,eview the con stitutionality of the silent meditat i o n statute. 7 CASES DENIED REVIEW den., 5 2 U.S.L.W. Avitzur V. Avitzur, 5 8 N.Y.S. 2d 1 0 8 (Ct. App.) cert. 3 2 6 2 (10-3-83) (No. 82-1854): State court held the First Amendment not to bar trial court from adjudicating c a s e in which the plaintiff sought a court ecclesiastical order compelling her former spouse to appear before a Jewish Court SO that she Could obtain a religious divorce (a "Getw). Chevren v. Bechtel, Inc., 4 5 5 N.Y.S. 2d 1015 (S.Ct. App. Div.), cert. den. , 5 2 U.S.W. 3263 (10-3-83) (No. 82-2141) : State court held Jewish woman's employment discrimination suit alleging that she had been discharged f o r disclosing employer's cooperation with Arab boycott of f i r m s with Jewish employees to be time-barred when suit w a s not brought until f o u r years after dismissal. Church of Christ o f Collinsville, Okla. v. G r a h a m , Civil No. Ct-81-729 (Okla. Dist. Ct., Oct. 1 5 , 1983), cert. den. 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3262 (10-3-83) (No. State c o u r t held the First Amendment not to bar it from 82-1950) : adjudicating former m e m b e r ' s suit against church f o r invasion of privacy inchurch disciplinary proceeding. I l l i n o i s , Inc., 1 1 2 Ill. City of Evanston v. Lubavitch Chabad House of A p p 3 6 233' (1st Dist. 1982), cert. den., 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3415 (11-28-83) (No. 83-325): State court held municipality's denial of special . u s e permit to Jewish organization to use house i n residential district for religious purposes not to violate free exercise clause. Crow V. Bullet, Civil No. 82-1852 (8th Cir. May 1 0 , 1983), cert. den., 52 U.S.L.W. 3370 (11-'7-83) (No. 83-43): Lower court held state regulation of Indian r e l i g i o u s - ceremonies and construction of p u b l i c - recreational facilities and roads in state park claimed to be traditional Indian Ceremonial site not to violate Indians' f r e e exercise.rights. F r a m e v. South Bend Community School Corporation, Civil No. 82-1383 (7th C i , Nov. 3 0 , 1982), cert. den., 5 2 U.S..Li.W. 3 2 6 2 -(lo-3-83) No. 82-1713) : Lower court held that school district's f a i l u r e to provide .free bus transportation to parochial school students did not violace either the f r e e CRS- 4 MB83242 UPDATE-12/14/83 exercise or equal protection clauses but that trial court should have abstained in favor of state court proceedings o n interpretat'ion of state l a w issues. - International Society for Krishna Consciousness v. Marsland, 6 5 7 P. 2d 1035 (Haw.), appeal dism'd for want of a substantial federal question, 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3260 (10-3-83) (No. 82-2070): State court upheld z o n i n g standard limiting use of structure as residence to no more than five unrelated persons despite claim that structure also was used a s a church. Lakewood, O h i o , Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Inc. v. City of Lakewood, O h i o , 6 9 9 F.2d 303 (6th Cir. 1982), cert. den., 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3262 (10-3-83) (No. 82-1769): Lower court held that city's zoning ordinance excluding churches from single-family residential districts which comprised 9 0 % Of the city did not violate the church's f r e e exercise rights. Larsen v. Kirkham, Civil No. 80-2152 (10th C i r , Dec. 2 0 , 1982), cert. Lower c o u r t found no den., 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3265 (10-3-83) (No. 83-92) : establishment clause violation i n exemption of religious educational institutions from state and federal law prohibitions of religious discrimination in employment. Members of the Jamestown School Committee v. S c h m i B t , 699 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. L.ower court 19831, cert. den., 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3265 (10-3-83). (No. 83-158) : upheld Rhode Island statute subsidizing bus transportation f o r both public and private school students up to 1 5 miles beyond public school district boundaries so long a s distance and cost of transportation provided to public and private school students remained "roughly proportional." New Mexico v. Burciaga, Civil No. 83-1414 (10th Cir. Apr. 8 , 1983) (order denying writ of prohibition), cert. den., 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3386 (11-14-83) (No. of prohibition a g a i n s t federal 83-9): Lower court denied state a writ district court decree in Duffy v. Las Cruces public Schools, 5 5 7 F.Supp. 1013 (D. N.Mex.1, appeal pending sub nom., Walsh v. D u f f y , No. 83(10th Cir. , Mar. 1 4 , 1983), which held unconstitutional a state statute permitting local School boards to have a perioa of silence at the beginning of each school day for "contemplation, meditation, o r prayer." - Solon Baptist T e m p l e , Iic. v. City of S o l o n , Civ. No. 44425 (Ohio Ct.. App. 8th Dist.) , cert. den., 5 2 U.S.L.W. 3265 (10-3-83) (No. 83-44) : state court dismissed church's claim that city officials violated the f r e e exercise clause by disapproving the church's building plans and ordering the church to Correct numerous building and fire c o d e violations. - - - -