The Secretary of Veterans Affairs appeals the district court's
In 1988, Murphy applied for employment as a Roman Catholic chaplain in the VA Medical Center in Denver, Colorado, where she had worked as a volunteer.
On September 15, 1988, the VA formally rejected Murphy's application.
Murphy then brought an EEO complaint over the VA's refusal to consider her application. The EEO investigator proposed that the VA had not discriminated against Murphy, but an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), after a hearing, determined that the ordination requirement is discriminatory.
The VA contests Murphy's standing to sue.
As the Supreme Court has said, the concept of standing is "concededly not susceptible of precise definition." Id. "In essence the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues." Id. at 750-51, 104 S.Ct. at 3324. To avoid advisory opinions, the "relief from the injury must be `likely' to follow from a favorable decision." Id. at 751, 104 S.Ct. at 3324.
Although abolishing the ordination requirement may not result in Murphy becoming employed as a VA chaplain, the essence of her sought-after relief is the removal of an allegedly illegal, gender-based barrier that precludes the VA from considering her application. In Regents of University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 98 S.Ct. 2733, 57 L.Ed.2d 750 (1978), the Supreme Court determined that Alan Bakke, a white applicant to medical school, had standing to challenge the University of California at Davis Medical School's practice of setting aside slots for minority applicants. Id. at 280 n. 14, 98 S.Ct. at 2743 n. 14. The Court approved the trial judge's determination that the University injured Bakke by preventing him from competing for the set-aside slots. Id. It concluded "[t]he question of Bakke's admission vel non is merely one of relief." Id. Thus, the Court held that it did not matter, for purposes of standing, whether Bakke's admission hinged solely on removal of the school's minority recruitment program.
We now turn to the merits. We review a district court's decisions on summary judgment de novo. Hydro Conduit Corp. v. American-First Title & Trust Co., 808 F.2d 712, 714 (10th Cir.1986). We thus apply the same standard as the trial court: whether the record, when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, shows no genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552-53, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
Murphy claims that the VA requirement has a disparate impact on women. Her claim does not require a finding of intentional discrimination because "the necessary premise of the disparate impact approach is that some employment practices, adopted without a deliberately discriminatory motive, may in operation be functionally equivalent to intentional discrimination." Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U.S. 977, 987, 108 S.Ct. 2777, 2785, 101 L.Ed.2d 827 (1988). The thrust of the inquiry is whether the employer's practice creates "artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers to employment." Griggs, 401 U.S. at 430-31, 91 S.Ct. at 853; see, e.g., Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 417, 95 S.Ct. 2362, 2371, 45 L.Ed.2d 280 (1975).
Under the disparate impact theory, a plaintiff must first make out a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that "a specific identifiable employment practice or policy caused a significant disparate impact on a protected group." Ortega v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 943 F.2d 1230, 1242 (10th Cir.1991). The burden then shifts to the defendant to rebut with evidence of a "business justification" for its action. Id. at 1243. If the defendant meets this burden of production, then it falls to the plaintiff to show that the justification is a pretext for discrimination. Id. at 1244. We explained in Ortega that
Id. (quoting Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642, 660-61, 109 S.Ct. 2115, 2126-27, 104 L.Ed.2d 733 (1989)).
The trial court determined that the plaintiff made out a prima facie case of discrimination and that the defendant articulated a
The VA argues that it will be unable to provide equally effective religious services to patients if all chaplains cannot perform the full range of religious functions established by their faiths. It notes that hospital chaplains may be on duty alone or may be called in the middle of the night. In the Roman Catholic religion, only priests may perform the celebration of the Eucharist (the Liturgy of the Mass), the Sacrament of Penance (confession), and the Sacrament of the Sick (originally called Last Rites). Since the endorsing body might not require applicants to be priests, the VA argues that it may wind up with chaplains who cannot provide patients with a full spectrum of religious services.
The district court held, and we agree, that the endorsement requirement provides ample safeguard that VA chaplains will be sufficiently trained to provide patients with those religious services the church, not the VA, finds necessary. See also Turner v. Parsons, 620 F.Supp. 138 (E.D.Pa.1985) (holding that the endorsing requirement does not violate the Establishment Clause), aff'd, 787 F.2d 584 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1160, 106 S.Ct. 2280, 90 L.Ed.2d 722 (1986). The VA's ecclesiastical endorsement requirement asks churches for a recommendation that "in the judgment of the endorsing body, [the endorsee is] qualified to represent said religious community in this specialized ministry." VA Manual on Clinical Affairs — Chaplain Service (VA Manual), M-2 Part II, § 1.06(a)(5) (March 12, 1990). The record shows that outside the VA hospital system, women may and do serve as Roman Catholic chaplains without disruption of service.
The hiring of non-ordained chaplains at the VA hospital might create some reshuffling of work-place responsibilities, but nothing of the magnitude that suggests Title VII must yield. Most of a chaplain's duties would be unaffected by the removal of the ordination requirement. A VA hospital chaplain is "not simply a preacher but a secular employee hired to perform duties for which he has, by dint of his religious calling and pastoral experience, a special aptitude." Baz v. Walters, 782 F.2d 701, 705 (7th Cir.1986).
The experience of the VA hospital in Denver where Murphy sought to work suggests that removal of the ordination requirement will not disrupt services only priests may perform. Of the hospital's six chaplains at the time of this lawsuit, two were Catholic priests. Thus, four of the chaplains could not provide Roman Catholics with services unique to that religion. Similarly, none of the six could administer unique religious services to members of nonrepresented faiths. When a priest is needed but, for whatever reason, is unavailable, the VA Manual calls for supplementing its full-time chaplain services through contract help or other arrangements. VA Manual § 1.05(a); id. § 106(h) (establishing a procedure for hiring contract chaplains on a case-by-case basis in the case of an "inability of one clergyperson to assume the total responsibility" for serving the specific religious needs of patients).
Even though the two Roman Catholic chaplains at the Denver hospital are on call during their off-duty hours, the hospital has made arrangements to supplement Roman Catholic services by calling on volunteer assistance of a nearby parish priest. Making outside arrangements are thus a normal part of operations at VA hospitals and do not materially effect the level of service the VA provides its patients. Cf. Bob Jones Univ. v. United States, 461 U.S. 574, 603-04, 103 S.Ct. 2017, 2034-35, 76 L.Ed.2d 157 (1983) (government's interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education need not yield to religious school's discriminatory enrollment practices). Thus, the VA argument basically lends oversight to the fact that it must be the endorsing body of a religious denomination — and not the VA — that determines the qualification of its representatives who provide religious services to VA patients.
The VA also warns us that elimination of the ordination requirement creates a danger of improper entanglement between church and state. It argues that the ordination requirement provides an objective criteria insulating its hiring requirements from an Establishment Clause challenge. We fail to see the danger. The VA already relies on the endorsing bodies for their advice in hiring. The VA also considers withdrawal of ecclesiastical endorsement sufficient cause for dismissal. VA Manual § 106(b). Government chaplaincy programs have been upheld in the face of Establishment Clause challenges. See Carter v. Broadlawns Medical Center, 857 F.2d 448 (8th Cir.1988) (county hospital), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1096, 109 S.Ct. 1569, 103 L.Ed.2d 935 (1989); Katcoff v. Marsh, 755 F.2d 223 (2d Cir.1985) (U.S. Army). The VA in this case successfully fought off the plaintiff's Establishment Clause arguments on summary judgment in the trial court, and the district court's ruling has not been appealed to us. We fail to see how removal of the ordination requirement, without more, will somehow transform the endorsing requirement from a presumably constitutionally satisfactory hiring prerequisite to one that is constitutionally infirm.
Finally, the VA argues that Murphy has not proven that removal of the ordination requirement will have a smaller disparate impact on women. See Ortega, 943 F.2d at 1244 (stating a disparate impact plaintiff must prove her favored remedy would not have a "similarly undesirable [discriminatory] effect" on hiring). We disagree. As far as Roman Catholic applicants are concerned, the removal of the ordination barrier lifts the only restriction that the VA has established that per se prevents female applicants from consideration. Thus, with the ordination requirement gone, the VA's own policies will not prevent women from competing for Catholic chaplain positions.
For the foregoing reasons, the decision of the district court is affirmed.
VA Manual § 1.06(a).
VA Manual § 1.03.