California v. Grace Brethren Church

PETITIONER: California
RESPONDENT: Grace Brethren Church
LOCATION: Bookstore

DOCKET NO.: 81-31
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)

CITATION: 457 US 393 (1982)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 18, 1982

Harriet S. Shapiro - on behalf of the United States
Jeffrey M. Vesely - on behalf of the State of California
William B. Ball - on behalf of Grace Brethren Church

Facts of the case


Media for California v. Grace Brethren Church

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1982 in California v. Grace Brethren Church

Warren E. Burger:

Mrs. Shapiro, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Harriet S. Shapiro:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This case is here by the United States and the State of California from a decision of the District Court for the Central District of California holding that the Federal Unemployment Tax Act and its state counterpart may not constitutionally protect the employees of certain religiously oriented schools.

Last term this Court decided in St. Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church versus South Dakota that 26 U.S.C. 3309(b) exempted the employees of schools operated by a church or organization of churches from coverage under the federal-state unemployment tax system.

The district court decided this case before St. Martin was handed down.

Our case originally involved three kinds of schools.

The district court identified them as: category one schools, those operated directly by a church or organization of churches... and category one schools are the only kind that were involved in St. Martin; category two schools are separately incorporated, but controlled or operated by a church or organization of churches, primarily for religious purposes; category three schools are religiously oriented schools that are independent of any specific church or organization of churches.

The district court found that Section 3309(b) and the counterpart state statute exempted category one and category two schools, but not category three schools.

None of the parties here contest that ruling, so there's no statutory issue before this Court.

Although the Missouri Synod Lutherans are here, with a brief, anyway, aren't they?

Harriet S. Shapiro:

They filed a brief, yes.

The district court also held that the category three schools have a First Amendment right to exemption from the Act, because the state could not make benefit determinations for employees of these statements without becoming unconstitutionally entangled in matters of religious doctrine.

The schools also make a free exercise claim in their cross-appeal.

The First Amendment claims of the category three schools, that is those not associated with any church, are the only issues before this Court in this case.

This Court's recent--

Was the free exercise claim presented below?

Harriet S. Shapiro:

--Yes, it was.

Not ruled on?

Harriet S. Shapiro:

Yes, it was ruled on and the district court rejected it.

Rejected it?

Harriet S. Shapiro:


Well, there is a cross-appeal on that issue?

Harriet S. Shapiro:

There is a cross-appeal, yes.

This Court's recent decision in United States v. Lee substantially answers the First Amendment claim.

Indeed, this case follows a fortiori from Lee, because in Lee payment of the tax was itself a sin.

There's no such claim here.

Do we get to this issue until we decide whether the Tax Injunction Act bars jurisdiction?

Harriet S. Shapiro:

That's a Jurisdictional question.

Well, shouldn't we address that before we get to the merits?

Harriet S. Shapiro:

Well, yes, there is that question in the case, and we've certainly discussed it in our brief, and also--