Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Amos

PETITIONER: Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
LOCATION: Deseret Gymnasium

DOCKET NO.: 86-179
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)

CITATION: 483 US 327 (1987)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1987

David B. Watkiss - on behalf of the appellees in both cases
Rex E. Lee - on behalf of appellants in No. 86-179
William Bradford Reynolds - Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice, on behalf of the United States in No. 86-401

Facts of the case

Two affiliate organizations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operated Deseret Gymnasium, a non-profit facility in Salt Lake City, Utah. These affiliates were the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CPB) and the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (COP). Arthur Frank Mayson worked for the Gymnasium for sixteen years as an engineer, but CPB and COP fired him when he failed to obtain a certificate authorizing him to attend the Church's religious temples. He filed a class-action lawsuit in District Court alleging that CPB and COP violated Section 703 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by dismissing him from nonreligious employment because he did not satisfy certain religious conditions. In response, CPB and COP claimed that Section 702 of the Act, as amended in 1972, exempts religious organizations from the Act's ban in Section 703 on religious discrimination. Mayson then claimed that Section 702 violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause by allowing religious organizations to practice discriminatory hiring for nonreligious jobs. The District Court agreed that Mayson's job was nonreligious. It also held that Section 702 violated the Establishment Clause because it allowed religious adherents exclusive participation in nonreligious activities.


Does Section 702 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 violate the Establishment Clause by allowing religious employers to choose employees for nonreligious jobs based on their religion?

Media for Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Amos

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1987 in Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Amos

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments this morning in No. 86-179, Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints against Christine J. Amos; and in No. 86-401, United States against Christine J. Amos.

You may begin whenever you're ready, Mr. Lee.

Rex E. Lee:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case involves the constitutionality of Congress' 1972 Amendment to Section 702 of Title VII.

It is an amendment which restored to religious employers a right that they had enjoyed for 175 years before there was a Title VII: the right to prefer their own members for their own employment without running afoul of Title VII's prohibition against employment discrimination based on religion.

When originally enacted in 1964, Section 702 permitted religious preference hiring, but restricted it to the church's religious activities.

The undisputed purpose of the 1972 amendment was to free the courts and the EEOC from entangling themselves in deciding which of a church's activities are and which are not sufficiently religious to qualify for the exemption.

Section 702 has none of the traditional indicia of an establishment of religion.

It involves no endorsement, no subsidy, no preference for one sect over another.

The statute simply does not promote religion.

All that it does is to permit churches to promote religion in the same way that they have done for all but eight years of our national existence.

There is nothing in the establishment clause that prohibits churches from promoting religion.

Indeed, that is the very reason for their existence.

And neither does the establishment clause prohibit government from permitting churches to promote religion.

Neither the Appellees nor the District Court has ever really faced up to the nature of the problem that Congress faced, and the limited range of available solutions to Congress, given the other decisions that Congress made.

Congress could have simply made Title VII applicable only to race, sex and national origin.

But once it decided to include religion as one of its criteria, it had to provide some kind of exemption from that criterion for religious employers, lest, in violation of the free exercise clause, they be prevented from hiring their own members for purely ecclesiastical positions.

Once it is recognized then, as I gather it is by everyone in this courtroom, that the Constitution required Congress to pick some exemption, the only real issue is whether the Constitution precluded the choice that Congress made.

In other words, Congress having opted for an anti-employment discrimination package that is not quite as large as the one the Appellees would have chosen, is Congress constitutionally obligated to make it larger?

The answer to that question has to be no.

Surely the establishment clause is not violated every time government regulates churches to a lesser degree than it might have, or every time that it lifts a governmental burden that would otherwise be imposed.

That means that the real objection to this statute finds its roots not in constitutional law, but in public policy.

It boils down to the fact that the Appellees wish that Congress had gone further and prohibited more than Congress chose to prohibit.

The only serious--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Lee, if I may inquire about one matter.

I guess this case involves nonprofit entities operated by the LDS Church?

Rex E. Lee:

--That is correct.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Now, what about the application of the statute to profit-making businesses of churches?

Do you think that there is a legitimate secular reason for the government to allow religious entities to operate profit-making businesses and be exempted from Title VII?

Rex E. Lee:

I do, Justice O'Connor, for this reason.