Rosas v. Corp. of the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle, Case No. 09-35003 (C.A. 9, Mar. 16, 2010)

EXCERPT:

"The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach." Everson v. Bd. of Educ., 330 U.S. 1, 18 (1947). The interplay between the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses creates an exception to an otherwise fully applicable statute if the statute would interfere with a religious organization's employment decisions regarding its ministers. Bollard v. Cal. Province of the Soc'y of Jesus, 196 F.3d 940, 944, 946-47 (9th Cir. 1999). This "ministerial exception" helps to preserve the wall between church and state from even the mundane government intrusion presented here. In this case, plaintiff Cesar Rosas seeks pay for the overtime hours he worked as a seminarian in a Catholic church in Washington. The district court correctly determined that the ministerial exception bars Rosas's claim and dismissed the case on the pleadings. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

Cesar Rosas and Jesus Alcazar were Catholic seminarians in Mexico. The Catholic Church required them to participate in a ministry training program at St. Mary Catholic Church in Marysville, Washington as their next step in becoming ordained priests. At St. Mary, Rosas and Alcazar allegedly suffered retaliation for claiming that Father Yanez sexually harassed Alcazar, and they eventually sued Father Yanez and the Corporation of the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle ("defendants") under Title VII. In addition, Rosas and Alcazar sued under supplemental jurisdiction for violations of Washington's Minimum Wage Act for failure to pay overtime wages. See Wash. Rev. Code § 49.46.130. The district court dismissed the overtime wage claims on the pleadings, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c), and Rosas's overtime wage claim is the only issue on appeal.

Because the judgment was on the pleadings, the pleadings alone must be sufficient to support the district court's judgment. We thus base our decision on the very few allegations in Rosas's complaint. Rosas alleges as follows:

1.3 . . . The Corporation of the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle hosted [Rosas] as [a] participant[ ] in a training/pastoral ministry program for the priesthood. 2.2 Cesar Rosas entered the seminary to become a Catholic priest in 1995 in Mexico.

2.3 As part of [his] preparation for ordination into the priesthood, the Catholic Church required [Rosas] to engage in a ministerial placement outside [his] diocese, under the supervision of a pastor of the parish into which [he was] placed. The Archdiocese of Seattle sends seminarians to Mexico and has Mexican seminarians come to its parishes. [Rosas was] placed in St. Mary Parish in Marysville, Washington under the supervision of defendant Fr. Horatio Yanez.

2.10 . . . [Rosas] was hired to do maintenance of the church and also assisted with Mass. He . . . worked many overtime hours he was not compensated for.

Read the full decision which includes a primer on the 'ministerial exception' at http://www.metnews.com/sos.cgi?0310%2F09-35003

 

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