The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently found a Jewish Community Center to be a "religious organization" that was "exempted from compliance with the religious discrimination provisions of Title VII by Section 702 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." The case is Leboon v. Lancaster Jewish Community Center Association. The issue of the status of the Lancaster Jewish Community Center arose in an employment discrimination lawsuit, brought by one of its employees, a Christian, who claimed that she was fired for her non-Jewish religious beliefs.
The 3rd Circuit majority found that LJCC was an exempt religious organization, which required the dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint. Judge Rendell, however, filed a cogent dissent concluding that the majority completely misread the intent of Congress. Her analysis of the structure and funding mechanism of the LJCC suggests that it is not a "religious organization" within the meaning of the statute. If she is right — and at first glance it seems that there’s a good chance she is — this case may find its way to next year’s Supreme Court docket.
For now, the practical effect of the Leboon case is a warning that religious organizations and their affiliates should seek counsel before hiring or firing employees of other faiths.