440 U. S. 490

U.S. Supreme Court

NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 440 U.S. 490 (1979)

National Labor Relations Board v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago

No. 77-752

Argued October 30, 1978

Decided March 21, 1979

440 U.S. 490


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified unions as bargaining agents for lay teachers in schools operated by respondents, which refused to recognize or bargain with the unions; the NLRB issued cease-and-desist orders against respondents, holding that it had properly assumed jurisdiction over the schools. Exercise of jurisdiction was asserted to be in line with its policy of declining jurisdiction only when schools are "completely religious" not just "religiously associated," as it found to be the case here, because the schools taught secular as well as religious subjects. On respondents' challenges to the NLRB orders, the Court of Appeals denied enforcement, holding that the NLRB standard failed to provide a workable guide for the exercise of its discretion, and that the NLRB's assumption of jurisdiction was foreclosed by the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.

Held: Schools operated by a church to teach both religious and secular subjects are not within the jurisdiction granted by the National Labor Relations Act, and the NLRB was therefore without authority to issue the orders against respondents. Pp. 440 U. S. 499-507.

(a) There would be a significant risk of infringement of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment if the Act conferred jurisdiction over church-operated schools. Cf. Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602, 403 U. S. 617. Pp. 440 U. S. 501-504.

(b) Neither the language of the statute nor its legislative history discloses any affirmative intention by Congress that church-operated schools be within the NLRB's jurisdiction, and, absent a clear expression of Congress' intent to bring teachers of church-operated schools within the NLRB's jurisdiction, the Court will not construe the Act in such a way as would call for the resolution of difficult and sensitive First Amendment questions. Pp. 440 U. S. 504-507.

559 F.2d 1112, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a clubjuris

Page 440 U. S. 491

dissenting opinion, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 440 U. S. 508.