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November 9, 2007     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 9, 2007
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 9, 2007 PAGE 9A Outside the Lancaster, Pa. lawsuit. By Jacob Berkman NEW YORK (JTA)--Some Jewish institutions may have their own "road map" on hiring practices after a U.S. federal court ruled that a Pennsylvania JCC had the right to dismiss an employee over her participation in a Jews for Jesus event. Linda LeBoon, an Evan- gelical Christian, had sued the Lancaster JCC claiming that she was fired in 2002 as its bookkeeper for attending a Jews for Jesus event. The JCC, LeBoon argued, was a center for Jewish culture and therefore did not qualify for the exemption in the 1964 Civil Rights Act that allows religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of religion when it comes to hiring. But last month the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to uphold a lower-court decision that the JCC is in- deed a"religious corporation, organization, or institution" and had the right to dismiss an employee over his or her religious activities. "I f they would have lost this Case," said Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jew- ish Congress, "it would have meant that someone from Jews for Jesus could have come into a Jewish organization and could have had a prominent position, and you couldn't have done anything about it legally. That would have been a catastrophe." tn addition to ensuring the right to dismiss employees over affiliations with Messi- anic groups, the ruling could serve as a broader legal guide for non-synagogue Jewish institutions, like JCCs and federations, that want to reserve the right to insist on hiring Jews for top leadership posts and other jobs. "This case provides a road map for other JCCs and or- ganizations that have some preference for hiring Jews in particular positions to qualify for this exemption," Stern said. "It has not always been self evident that they have the right to do so." While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employ- ment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, Section 702 of the act states that parochial schools and houses of worship Courtesy of the Lancaster JCC JCC, which is involved in an employment discrimination areexemptandmayhirebasedmission--to "enhance and on religion, promote Jewish life, identity There has long been a and continuity." And based debate about whether orga- on the other eight criteria, it nizations affiliated with reli- determined that the JCC was gious groups, such as camps, working to follow through on nursing homes, social service that mission. agencies.~and community The court noted that the centers, were afforded the rabbis of the city's three same right to discriminate synagogues were honorary in hiring, non-voting members of the LeBoon argued that be- JCCboardwhoseinputplayed cause the Lancaster JCC had a key role in the firing and non-Jewish members, rented hiring of the institution's top space to other religious orga- professionals, helped with nizations and held generally the fund raising and provided secular activities, theinstitu- religious programming. tion was not a religious insti- In addition, the court said tution. Further, she argued, theJCCorganizedJewishholi- the JCC was not financially day events, had mezuzahsaf- or administratively tied to a fixedto its doors, maintained synagogue, a kosher kitchen and, despite The appeals court in Phila- its gloomy financialsituation, delphia ruled, however, that decided not to rent out its the JCC was entitled to the facilities on the Sabbath. exemption because "during "These characteristics the period under scrutiny, its clearlypointtotheconclusion" structures andpurposeswere that the JCC was "primarily a primarily religious." religious organization," " the Drawing on precedents, the majority opinion stated. court compiled a list of nine In her dissenting opinion, criteria to help determine Judge Marjorie Rendell ar- what constitutes a religious gued that the only relevant institution.Among the ques- question is whether the JCC tionswere: Is the institution a was funded or controlled by not for profit? Does it offer a a religious group. The JCC, secular product? Does it have she said, "was not run by a a stated religious purpose? synagogue but by a board of Does any religious entity par- independently elected by the ticipate in its management? center's members." Does it include religious Both sides claimed that instruction? Is it made up of their approach would avoid coreligionists? forcing the courts into the un- In LeBoonv. Lancaster Jew- constitutional role ofarbitrat- ish Community CenterAsso- ing on religious questions. ciation, the court determined The national arms of local that the JCC did have a Jewish JCCs and Jewish federations David and Shelly Sokol - Owners Join your Florida friends at OF CENTRAL FLORIDA Register Now For Our 38th Summer For Boys & Girls 6-15 A magnificent 100 acre Air Conditioned camp in the hills near Ocala National Forest. Beautiful, Sandy Beach with Spring Lake, swimming pool, boating, fishing, canoeing, Wave Runner, and water skiing. On land, confidence ropes Course/zipline, all sports, tennis, archery, riflery, crafts, and drama. BOX 160306, Miami, FL 33116 Phone 800-279-0401 Judaic Program www.campshalom.net did not comment specifically about the case. Observers, including Stern, say the decision allows for installing safeguards against proselytiz- ing groups trying to infiltrate Jewish organizations. Synagogues and Jewish schools have been fairly well protected by Article 702 of the Civil Rights Act and been able to avoid hiring job applicants who belong to groups such as Jews for Jesus, according to the director of Jewish communal affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Marcia Eisenberg. But Jewish groups that fall on the more secular end of the spectrum, like JCCs and even less overtly Jewish organiza- tions, have been susceptible to lawsuits involving discrimina- tion claims. "This gives some interest- ing comfort for Jewish organi- zations in that the definition of a religious-institution is actually broader than it was before," said Eisenberg, who helps Jewish groups draw up hiring practices. "This is especially helpful when you have big staffs and a lot of employees." Stern and Eisenberg said the case should give Jewish organizations reason to go back and reassess their mis- sion statements and practices to see if they line up with what is required in the recent deci- sion to qualify for the religious exemption. ~~Z~ ~o~em ~ Brochures Business Cards Envelopes 205 North Street Forms & Flyers Longwood~ FL 32750 www.elegantprinfing.netInvitations 407-767-7110 Letterheads H~/ /Qt4. ~ Pr~ Menus & More 10% Discount to all Lyman Students & Family F'REE ES ES ALL OF OUR SERVICE IS GUARANTEED Monthly. Bi-Monthly. Yearly. Quarterly Residential. Commercial (Custom Schedules) . Full Service Termite Protection . Full Lawn & Ornamental Program . Fleas. Ants. 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