GANULIN v. U.S. No. C-1-98-557.
71 F.Supp.2d 824 (1999)
Richard GANULIN, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant, and Jeffrey Niemer, et al. Defendant-Intervenors.
United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division.
December 6, 1999.
Joseph Steven Justice, Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, Cincinnati, OH, for Jeffery Niemer, Patty Hempstead, Anne Dolan, intervenors.
ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS
DLOTT, District Judge.
THE COURT WILL ADDRESS PLAINTIFF'S SEASONAL CONFUSION ERRONEOUSLY BELIEVING CHRISTMAS
WHATEVER THE REASON CONSTITUTIONAL OR OTHER CHRISTMAS
CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT JOY AND GIVING AND SHARING IT IS ABOUT THE CHILD WITHIN U.S. IT IS MOSTLY ABOUT CARING!
ONE IS NEVER JAILED FOR NOT HAVING A TREE FOR NOT GOING TO CHURCH FOR NOT SPREADING GLEE!
THE COURT WILL UPHOLD SEEMINGLY CONTRADICTORY CAUSES
WE ARE ALL BETTER FOR SANTA THE EASTER BUNNY TOO AND MAYBE THE GREAT PUMPKIN TO NAME JUST A FEW!
AN EXTRA DAY OFF IS HARDLY HIGH TREASON IT MAY BE SPENT AS YOU WISH REGARDLESS OF REASON.
THE COURT HAVING READ THE LESSONS OF "LYNCH"
THERE IS ROOM IN THIS COUNTRY AND IN ALL OUR HEARTS TOO FOR DIFFERENT CONVICTIONS AND A DAY OFF TOO!
This matter is before the Court on the Defendant United States' Motion to Dismiss (doc. # 21) and Defendant-Intervenors Jeff Neimer's, Anne Dolan's, and Patty Hemsath's Motion to Dismiss (doc. # 22), pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Defendant and Defendant-Intervenors seek dismissal of Plaintiff Ganulin's Amended Complaint, which challenges the constitutionality of 5 U.S.C. § 6103. Section 6103 declares Christmas Day to be a legal public holiday. Plaintiff Ganulin has filed briefs opposing dismissal and the Christian Coalition has filed an amicus curiae brief in favor of dismissal. The Court has carefully considered all the filings and the relevant case law. Upon consideration of the law, the Motions to Dismiss are hereby
I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff Ganulin filed a Complaint against the United States of America on August 4, 1998 alleging that the statute making Christmas Day a legal public holiday violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution ("the Establishment Clause"). Jeffrey Niemer, Patty Hemsath, and Anne Dolan moved to intervene pursuant to Rule 24(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on November 2, 1998 and were granted status as defendant-intervenors on November 6, 1998. Defendant-Intervenors are federal employees seeking to protect their interest in the employment benefit of a Christmas holiday.
Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on November 25, 1998 claiming that a legal public holiday on Christmas Day pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 6103 violates the Establishment Clause and interferes with his rights to equal protection and freedom of association protected by the United States Constitution. Defendant and Defendant-Intervenors then filed their Motions to Dismiss and the Christian Coalition filed an amicus curiae brief. They argue that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action and that he has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR MOTIONS TO DISMISS
The purpose of a motion to dismiss or a motion for judgment on the pleadings is to allow a defendant to test whether, as a matter of law, the plaintiff is entitled to legal relief even if all facts and allegations in the complaint are true. See Mayer v. Mylod,
Consequently, a complaint will not be dismissed pursuant to a motion for judgment on the pleadings unless there is no law to support the claims made, the facts alleged are insufficient to state a claim, or there is an insurmountable bar on the face of the complaint. Because a motion for judgment on the pleadings is directed solely to the complaint, the focus is on whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims, rather than on whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See Roth Steel Prods. v. Sharon Steel Corp.,
Defendant and Defendant-Intervenors both move for dismissal on the grounds that Ganulin lacks standing to pursue these claims in federal court. A review of the basic precepts of standing and the special precepts for standing in Establishment Clause cases and taxpayer cases is in order before discussing the arguments of the parties.
The jurisdiction of the federal courts is limited by Art. III of the Constitution to "Cases" and "Controversies." Inherent in the case-or-controversy limitation are two concerns. First, "those words limit the business of the federal courts to questions presented in an adversary context and in a form historically viewed as capable of resolution through the judicial process." Flast v. Cohen,
The concept of standing is one aspect of justiciability. See id. at 98, 88 S.Ct. 1942. At an irreducible minimum, the Constitution requires that the party invoking jurisdiction bear the burden of proving the following three elements: First, the plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact-an actual injury which is concrete and particularized. Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of — the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant. Third, it must be likely, and not merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife,
On a motion to dismiss "general factual allegations of an injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice [because] we `presum[e] that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim.'" Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130 (quoting Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed.,
1. Standing in First Amendment and Establishment Clause Cases
There are special concerns in First Amendment and Establishment Clause cases regarding standing. Plaintiffs bringing claims pursuant to the Establishment Clause or other First Amendment rights must meet all three aspects of
The Supreme Court has "consistently held that a plaintiff raising only a generally available grievance about government — claiming only harm to his and every citizens's interest in the proper application of the Constitution and the laws, and seeking relief that no more directly and tangibly benefits him than it does the public at large" lacks standing. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 573-74, 112 S.Ct. 2130. For example, a plaintiff would not have standing if his or her sole complaint was that a government act or policy violated the Constitution. See Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 485, 102 S.Ct. 752. The respondents in Valley Forge sought the district court to declare unconstitutional a decision of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to convey a tract of land to the Valley Forge Christian College. See id. at 468, 102 S.Ct. 752. The Supreme Court noted that while the respondents were clearly committed to the principle of church and state separation, they lacked standing because they failed "to identify any personal injury suffered by them as a consequence of the alleged constitutional error, other than the psychological consequence presumably produced by observation of conduct with which one disagrees." Id. at 485-86, 102 S.Ct. 752.
Conversely, a plaintiff objecting to a state sponsored display of religious symbols has standing because his or her injury is caused by unwelcome, personal and direct contact with the religious display. See Suhre, 131 F.3d at 1086. "[D]irect contact with an unwelcome religious exercise or display works a personal injury distinct from and in addition to each citizen's general grievance against unconstitutional government contact." Id. at 1086. Similarly, the Sixth Circuit held that a plaintiff alleging direct contact with a portrait of Jesus hanging in a public school had standing because "use of governmental authority to encourage a sectarian religious view is sufficient injury if directed towards the plaintiff." Washegesic v. Bloomingdale Public Sch.,
In another case, the Sixth Circuit held that residents of the Cleveland area had standing to object to the decision of the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to lease space to a religious organization for use as a chapel. The court stated that even if the plaintiffs could "avoid the chapel area .... this impingement on their right to use the airport is sufficient to confer standing since it would `force them to assume special burdens' to avoid `unwelcome religious exercises.'" Hawley v. City of Cleveland,
2. Standing in Taxpayer Cases
Finally, and before turning to the specific allegations of standing raised by Ganulin,
Flast, 392 U.S. at 102-03, 88 S.Ct. 1942. That is, for example, "taxpayers can sue to enjoin congressional appropriations ... where such appropriations violate a specific constitutional provision, such as the Establishment Clause." Hawley, 773 F.2d at 741. In Flast, taxpayers were found to have standing to challenge the expenditure of funds for the purchase of instructional materials to be used in parochial schools. See 392 U.S. at 103, 88 S.Ct. 1942.
Flast does not confer general rights of standing to taxpayers challenging alleged Establishment Clause violations. The Court has subsequently held that taxpayers do not have standing under Flast to challenge legislation transferring government property to a religious organization if the conveyance was done under the authority of the Property Clause, Art. IV, § 3, cl. 2, and not under the taxing and spending clause of Art. I, § 8. See Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 480, 102 S.Ct. 752. The Flast exception is a narrow one and only applies when an appropriation and not other governmental acts are at issue. See Hawley, 773 F.2d at 741.
3. Plaintiff Ganulin's Assertions of Standing
Ganulin asserts several bases for standing in his Amended Complaint:
The Court has reservations about finding that Ganulin has established standing and shares the concerns raised by the United States, the Defendant-Intervenors and the amicus curiae. First, Ganulin's assertions that 5 U.S.C. § 6103 makes him feel like a political outsider sound like claims of psychological harm. The Supreme Court has stated that psychological harm is not sufficient injury in fact to confer standing. See Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 485, 102 S.Ct. 752.
Second, there is a question of whether the harms of which Ganulin complains are redressable. The Court believes that the majority of Americans, Christians and non-Christians alike, would likely continue to celebrate the secular and religious aspects of Christmas on December 25 of each year whether or not Christmas Day is a legal public holiday. Jewish Americans celebrate Chanukah and children of many diverse religious backgrounds go trick-or-treating on Halloween even though these days are not legal public holidays. If Ganulin only seeks to gain a sense of personal satisfaction in seeing that the Constitution is upheld, then he lacks standing. See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment,
Third, Ganulin asserts federal taxpayer status without expressly stating in what way tax funds are unconstitutionally appropriated. In support of his taxpayer argument, Ganulin cites Marsh v. Chambers,
These concerns alone, however, are not reason to find that Ganulin lacks standing. Ganulin likens his case to Suhre and Washegesic where plaintiffs established standing based on their direct, personal contact with unwelcome religious symbols and displays. See Suhre, 131 F.3d at 1084 (display of the Ten Commandments in the county courthouse); Washegesic, 33 F.3d at 681 (display of a portrait of Christ in a public secondary school). Ganulin does not explicate further as to the nature of the contact to which he and his family are exposed. The Court presumes that the direct contact Ganulin experiences would be the closing of federal buildings and functions, such as the closing of the federal courts and the postal service, for reasons he asserts are religious in nature.
Although it is a close call, the Court cannot conclude that Ganulin could prove no set of facts in support of his assertion of standing. See Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99. Therefore, the Motion to Dismiss cannot be granted on the grounds that Ganulin lacks standing to bring his claims. The Court turns now to Ganulin's substantive claims and the arguments for dismissal regarding each claim.
B. Establishment Clause
Ganulin's primary claim is that the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday violates the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The First Amendment was made binding upon the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. See Capitol Square Review and Advisory Bd. v. Pinette,
Id. at 16, 67 S.Ct. 504. Despite this attempt to define the scope, the Supreme Court admitted in 1971 that it still could "only dimly perceive the lines of demarcation in this extraordinarily sensitive area of constitutional law." Lemon v. Kurtzman,
The Sixth Circuit applies a modified version of the Lemon test when reviewing Establishment Clause challenges. See Granzeier v. Middleton,
403 U.S. at 612-13, 91 S.Ct. 2105 (internal citations and quotations omitted). As the Sixth Circuit has noted, however, the Supreme Court has applied the "endorsement" test in more recent cases. See Granzeier, 173 F.3d at 572.
The Sixth Circuit considers the endorsement test to be a clarification of the effects prong of the Lemon test. See id. at 573. The principle of the endorsement test is that the "Establishment Clause, at the very least, prohibits government from appearing to take a position on questions of religious belief or from `making adherence to religion relevant in any way to a person's standing in the political community.'" County of Allegheny v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter,
1. First Prong — Secular Purpose
Ganulin makes two primary assertions concerning the religious nature of Christmas which the Court must accept as true for purposes of these Motions. See Miller, 50 F.3d at 377. First, he asserts that Christmas Day is the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the individual they believe to be their Messiah. See Amended Complaint ¶ 18. Second, he asserts that on Christmas Day Christians celebrate the arrival of the legendary Christian figure "Santa Claus." See id. ¶ 19. From these premises, Ganulin concludes that the declaration of Christmas as a legal public holiday necessarily has a religious, sectarian purpose of promoting Christianity. The Court need not reject Ganulin's premises to reach a different conclusion on the secular purpose prong of the Lemon test. The Court can accept the religious origins of the Christmas holiday and still conclude that the government is merely acknowledging the secular cultural aspects of Christmas by declaring Christmas to be a legal public holiday.
"A government practice need not be exclusively secular to survive the first part of the Lemon test; unless it seems to be a sham, the government's assertion of a secular purpose is entitled to deference." Granzeier, 173 F.3d at 574; see also, Lynch, 465 U.S. at 680, 104 S.Ct. 1355 (stating that an act or statute will be struck down on the basis of the secular purpose prong only if it "was motivated wholly by religious considerations"). Courts have repeatedly recognized that the Christmas holiday has become largely secularized. Justice Blackmun stated in County of Allegheny that "both Christmas and Chanukah are part of the same winter-holiday season, which has attained a secular status in our society." 492 U.S. at 616, 109 S.Ct. 3086 (Blackmun, J.). This conclusion has been agreed with in both majority and dissenting opinions in the lower courts. See e.g., Granzeier, 173 F.3d at 580 (Moore, J., dissenting) (Christmas is "now secularized to a significant extent."); Koenick v. Felton,
The various opinions expressed by the Supreme Court justices in Lynch illustrate that even though the justices have very different beliefs about the constitutionality of some state activities held in association with Christmas, they have not questioned the constitutionality of the legal public holiday itself. In Lynch, the Supreme Court concluded that the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, could include a religious creche in its public Christmas display along with other secular figures without violating the Establishment Clause. See 465 U.S. at 687, 104 S.Ct. 1355. In her concurrence, Justice O'Connor stated that Christmas "has very strong secular components and traditions." 465 U.S. at 692, 104 S.Ct. 1355 (O'Connor, J., concurring). Even the dissenting justices, who objected to the inclusion of the creche, agreed that "the Christmas holiday in our national culture contains both secular and sectarian elements." Id. at 709, 104 S.Ct. 1355 (Brennan, J., dissenting, joined by Marshall, Blackmun, and Stevens, JJ.).
The dissenting justices concluded that the Establishment Clause is not offended when justices do "no more than accommodate the calendar of public activities to the plain fact that many Americans will expect on that day to spend time visiting with their families, attending religious services, and perhaps enjoying some respite from pre-holiday activities." See id. at 710, 104 S.Ct. 1355 (Brennan, J., dissenting, joined by Marshall, Blackmun, and Stevens, JJ.). The Supreme Court reached similar conclusions in other cases. See e.g., County of Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 611-12, 109 S.Ct. 3086 ("[C]onfining the government's own celebration of Christmas to the holiday's
The conclusion that Christmas has a secular purpose is also supported by cases analyzing the constitutionality of school, office, and courthouse closings on other days traditionally celebrated as holy days by Christians. Four circuit courts have concluded that cities may close public functions on the Friday before Easter, which Christians celebrate as Good Friday, the day Jesus Christ was crucified. See Koenick v. Felton,
In these Good Friday decisions, the courts recognized the secularization of the Christmas holiday. See Koenick, 973 F.Supp. at 525 (describing Christmas as a highly secularized holiday) aff'd
Interestingly, the cases opposing public recognition of religious holidays do not dispute the constitutionality of the Christmas legal public holiday. "Some holidays that are religious, even sectarian, in origin, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, have so far lost their religious connotation in the eyes of the general public ... [that they] have only a trivial effect in promoting religion." See Metzl v. Leininger,
Similarly, the District of Columbia Circuit reversed and remanded a district court opinion dismissing a complaint which alleged that the closing of a public library on Easter violated the Establishment Clause. See Bonham v. District of Columbia Library Admin.,
2. Second Prong — Endorsement
The issue under the Sixth Circuit's modified version of the Lemon test effects prong is whether a reasonable observer would think that the federal government is endorsing religion by proclaiming Christmas Day to be a legal public holiday. See Grand Rapids, 980 F.2d at 1543-44. The
Ganulin argues that the recognition of Christmas as a national public holiday pursuant to § 6103 has the primary effect of endorsing sectarian Christian beliefs. The Supreme Court's opinion in County of Allegheny implicitly rejects that argument when it explains why the government cannot celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday:
492 U.S. at 611-12, 109 S.Ct. 3086. Similarly, the Supreme Court in Lynch stated that the inclusion of a nativity scene in a public Christmas display containing several other more secularized figurines had only an "indirect, remote, and incidental" benefit to "one faith or religion or to all religions." 465 U.S. at 683, 104 S.Ct. 1355; see also Koenick, 190 F.3d at 267 (concluding that a school holiday on Good Friday does not include a facial denominational preference). It necessarily follows that the legal public holiday of Christmas does not have the primary effect of endorsing Christianity in particular or religion in general.
By giving federal employees a paid vacation day on Christmas, the government is doing no more than recognizing the cultural significance of the holiday. See County of Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 601, 109 S.Ct. 3086 ("The government may acknowledge
3. Third Prong — Entanglement
The Supreme Court has stated that entanglement "is a question of kind and degree." Lynch, 465 U.S. at 684, 104 S.Ct. 1355. The Court has recognized that interaction between church and state is "inevitable" and therefore, entanglement must be "excessive" to conclude that the Establishment Clause is violated. Agostini v. Felton,
The Court finds Ganulin's arguments to be conclusory and inaccurate. Ganulin fails to give any concrete examples of the type of monitoring that is or would be required, nor can the Court think of any. The government's role is limited to declaring December 25th to be a legal public holiday. How federal employees and other citizens choose to observe the holiday is their own concern. The government has no right to or interest in monitoring its citizens to determine if they engage in religious celebrations on Christmas. Section 6103 does not require government participation in religious activities nor does it provide funding for religious activities. See Koenick, 973 F.Supp. at 527 (stating the same in regards to allowing public school holiday on the Friday before Easter). In an analogous situation, the Sixth Circuit found that government officials are not required to make religious determinations and there is no entanglement when government officials declare that courthouses and offices will be closed on the Good Friday, the Friday before Easter. See Granzeier, 173 F.3d at 574. The same conclusion applies to the declaration of Christmas as a legal public holiday.
4. Conclusion on the Establishment Clause
The Court holds that under Sixth Circuit and Supreme Court precedent the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday does not violate the Establishment Clause because it has a valid secular purpose, it does not have the effect of endorsing religion in general or Christianity
C. Freedom of Association
Ganulin also argues that 5 U.S.C. § 6103 is unconstitutional because it violates his right to freedom of association. The freedom of association is not enumerated in the Constitution, but arises as a necessary concomitant to the Bill of Right's protection of individual liberty. The Supreme Court has explained the protections afforded by the freedom of association as follows:
Roberts v. United States Jaycees,
Ganulin argues that § 6103 impinges on his associational rights because "freedom of association includes the right to have the government not impose Christian religious or Christian cultural beliefs on him." Amended Complaint (doc. # 18), ¶ 32. He argues that the government's celebration of Christmas as a legal public holiday classifies Christian religious and cultural beliefs in a preferred way that impinges on his fundamental rights to believe and associate as a non-Christian. He objects to having the holiday imposed upon him because he alleges that the Christian ideas that underlie the holiday are the kind of ideas that underlie a person's identity and existence. He then argues that because § 6103 impinges upon his rights, the statute can only be upheld if it can survive strict scrutiny analysis. "Infringements on [the right to associate] may be justified by regulations adopted to serve compelling interests, unrelated to the suppression of ideas, that cannot be achieved through means significantly less restrictive of associational freedoms." Roberts, 468 U.S. at 623, 104 S.Ct. 3244. Ganulin concludes that the government has no compelling interest.
The error in Ganulin's argument is that his assertions do not state a claim under either type of associational protection described by the Court in Roberts. The first type of claim recognizes that the Bill of Rights "must afford the formation and preservation of certain kinds of highly personal relationships a substantial measure
Ganulin does not, and cannot, allege that the government imposes upon him or his family participation with others in religious services and celebrations. His argument, rather, is that his free association rights are being violated by imposing Christian beliefs on him and his family. In this same vein he argues that it is inconsistent for the government to assert that Christmas is a highly secularized holiday and for the Intervenors to state that they intend to attend religious services on Christmas day.
The Court does not agree with Ganulin's arguments. Ganulin and his family have the freedom to celebrate, or not celebrate, the religious and the secular aspects of the holiday as they see fit. The Court simply does not believe that declaring Christmas to be a legal public holiday impermissibly imposes Christian beliefs on non-adherents in a way that violates the right to freedom of association. Moreover, the Court finds no inconsistency in the Defendant's and Defendant-Intervenor's arguments. The Sixth Circuit has stated in reference to Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day that "holidays are established for the convenience of its citizens, and that convenience often is caused by individual motivations that may be a mix of secular and religious." Granzeier, 173 F.3d at 575. The government can establish legal public holidays for secular reasons and its citizens can choose to celebrate the holidays in a religious manner without contradiction.
Therefore, the Court holds that Ganulin cannot establish as a matter of law that the enactment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday violates his right to freedom of association.
D. Equal Protection
Ganulin's last claim is that the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday violates his right to equal protection under the law. Laws that neither burden a fundamental right nor target a suspect class are upheld under equal protection analysis so long as they bear a rational relationship to some legitimate end. See Romer v. Evans,
The Court has already held that Ganulin's fundamental right of freedom of association is not impinged by § 6103. Further, the Court has found legitimate secular purposes for establishing Christmas as a legal public holiday. To again quote the dissenting judges in a case upholding the inclusion of a creche in a public holiday display: "When government decides to recognize Christmas day as a public holiday, it does no more than accommodate the calendar of public activities to the plain fact that many Americans will expect on that day to spend time visiting with their families, attending religious services, and perhaps enjoying
Accordingly, the Court holds the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday does not violate fundamental rights nor discriminate based upon suspect criterion. The United States, moreover, has a rational, secular reason for the establishment of the holiday. The Court, therefore, holds that Ganulin cannot establish as a matter of law that 5 U.S.C. § 6103 violates his rights to equal protection under the law.
The Court finds as a matter of law that on the facts alleged Plaintiff Ganulin cannot support his claims that the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday violates the Establishment Clause or his rights to freedom of association and equal protection under the United States Constitution. Therefore, for the reasons explained above, the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (doc. # 21) and the Defendant-Intervenors' Motion to Dismiss (doc. # 22) are hereby
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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