No Jurisdiction Over Church Facilities for Kansas Human Rights Commission

Decision reached in dispute over church-operated child care.

Church Law and Tax 1993-01-01 Recent Developments

Employment Practices

A Kansas court concluded that a state “human rights commission” had no jurisdiction over a church-operated child care facility. A former employee of a church-operated child care facility filed a complaint with a state human rights commission, claiming that he had been terminated unlawfully by the church on account of her race and sex. The church argued that the state human rights commission had no jurisdiction over churches. A trial court agreed, and the case was appealed to a state appeals court. The appeals court also agreed that the human rights commission had no jurisdiction over the church. This conclusion was based entirely on the wording of the Kansas civil rights act which limits coverage to “nonsectarian corporations” and employers. This language left no doubt that “sectarian corporations” (including churches) are not covered. In rejecting the state’s argument that a church child care facility should be covered by the civil rights law even if a church is not, the court observed: “We believe it is reasonable to conclude that, if the purpose of the church is to honor and carry out the will of God; to carry on religious, educational, and missionary work; and to manifest the unity of the congregation’s faith in Jesus Christ as God and Savior, the child care program run by the church will attempt to meet those goals.” Zion Lutheran Church v. Kansas Commission on Civil Rights, 821 P.2d 334 (Kan. App. 1991).

See Also: Labor Laws

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