Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Feds Rule Against 2nd Catholic College, CNS Analyzes Assault on Religious LibertyFrom the Cardinal Newman Society press release:
For the second time this year, a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional director has ruled that a Catholic college lacks a substantial religious character. Today The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) announces its latest publication, “The NLRB’s Assault on Religious Liberty,” to explain the historical context and the gravity of this federal intrusion into Catholic education.The press release is also available here.
The new paper, available online here, is published by the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, a division of CNS that advises and assists academic and religious leaders in efforts to strengthen the Catholic identity and academic quality of Catholic colleges and universities.
“Even while Catholic colleges invite scrutiny by failing to adhere fully to the Catholic Church’s own requirements for Catholic education, the NLRB is clearly infringing on the rights of colleges to apply religious criteria without federal government interference,” said CNS President Patrick J. Reilly, the author of the CNS paper. “The media and Catholic leaders need to understand that the NLRB assault on Catholic colleges is not new—it has been ongoing for several decades—and it stands in clear contradiction to federal court rulings, which have instructed the NLRB to stop interfering with Catholic education.”
Last week a NLRB director ruled that St. Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois, “is not a church-operated institution” and therefore subject to federal labor law. It follows a January ruling that another Catholic institution, Manhattan College, is also not sufficiently religious to claim exemption from federal law.
The Manhattan and St. Xavier announcements are only the latest developments in a decades-long struggle between Catholic colleges and the NLRB. In 1979 U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NLRB v. The Catholic Bishop of Chicago, et al. that the NLRB had violated the First Amendment by asserting jurisdiction over Catholic parochial schools, because that could interfere with religious decisions about curriculum and personnel. Although Catholic colleges have made similar arguments, the NLRB has insisted on an intrusive “substantial religious character” test to determine jurisdiction over colleges—thereby engaging in the very sort of subjective analysis of colleges’ religious criteria that the Supreme Court sought to avoid.
The D.C. Circuit Court—following criteria developed by now-Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer—has since instructed the NLRB in 2002 and 2008 to cease using its “substantial religious character” test. Those instructions have thus far been ignored by the NLRB.
CNS’ Center for the Advancement of Higher Education has published other useful research to aid Catholic colleges in strengthening their Catholic identity and securing their religious liberty—two goals that are increasingly related to one another. Read “Assessing Catholic Identity: A Handbook for Catholic College and University Leaders” here and “Protecting Catholic Colleges from External Threats to Their Religious Liberty” here.