Catholic Bishop Revisited: Resolving the Problem of Labor Board Jurisdiction over Religious Schools
Christopher M. Gaul | 2007 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1505
The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause forbids the govern-ment from creating laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion, and its Establishment Clause prohibits laws that respect an establishment of re-ligion. Thus far, judicial attempts to interpret the meaning and scope of the twin Religion Clauses have resulted in an inconsistent and confused body of law. This note argues that the Supreme Court decision in NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago furthered this confusion by avoiding the issue of whether labor relations statutes, namely the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), may be constitutionally applied to religious schools so as to require collective bargaining between the school and its lay faculty. Disposing this case on statutory interpretation grounds, the Court sidestepped the constitutional question and approached the issue in a manner that has proved problematic for the lower courts. Furthermore, the constitutional doctrines that underlay the Court’s decision have been altered by subsequent cases.
The Catholic Bishop problem implicates the freedom of association rights of lay teachers, the freedom of religious exercise rights of schools, and the prohibition of laws that establish religion. Because the courts’ ap-proaches to reconciling these interests have been varied and oftentimes flawed, congressional action is the most appropriate resolution. The au-thor therefore proposes an NLRA amendment that fully addresses the var-ious contours of the Catholic Bishop problem and vindicates both the as-sociation rights of lay teachers and the free exercise rights of schools.