The opinion of the court was delivered by: DEBEVOISE
Shelton College (a religious institution of higher learning), church entities affiliated with Shelton College, Shelton College students and parents, and a Shelton College faculty member seek injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education from requiring Shelton College to comply with New Jersey's statutes and regulations governing the granting of degrees.
Prior to the institution of this action, the State Board of Higher Education instituted suit in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey seeking to enjoin Shelton College from operating until licensed by the State Board. The state court issued a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction which, among other things, enjoined Shelton College and its directors and officers "from engaging in advertising, assisting in or causing the offering of any courses or classes of instruction, or engaging in any form of educational instruction . . . except for presently enrolled students until the conclusion of the academic semester on December 22, 1979, unless a license for same is issued by the New Jersey Department of Higher Education . . . ."
The action is brought under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985; 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202. The matter in controversy exceeds the sum of $ 10,000, exclusive of interest and costs. A judgment is sought declaring that the application to Shelton College of the state licensing and approval scheme contained in N.J.S.A. 18A:3-3, 18A:3-13, 18A:3-14, 18A:68-3, 18A:68-6, 18A:68-8 and 18A:68-10 is violative of rights of all of the plaintiffs protected by the First, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
I find that the following facts have been established:
1. The Parties Plaintiff:
New Jersey-Philadelphia Presbytery of the Bible Presbyterian Church is the regional ruling body of Bible Presbyterian Church, and consists of ministers and representative elders from Bible Presbyterian Church congregations within New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, New Jersey, is a member congregation of Bible Presbyterian Church.
Bible Presbyterian Church is a fundamentalist Christian church with a nationwide membership. It conducts educational ministries for the sole and ultimate purpose of spreading its religious beliefs. In keeping with this practice, the plaintiffs, New Jersey-Philadelphia Presbytery and Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, have sponsored, as an integral part of their religious mission, plaintiff, Shelton College, a New Jersey corporation which has its campus in Cape May. The Presbytery's sponsorship has taken the form of (a) formal approval of the college, pursuant to ecclesiastical procedures, as an "agency" of the denomination, and (b) financial support. Sponsorship by the Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood has taken the form of financial support.
Shelton College is an outgrowth of the National Bible Institute founded in 1907 to train "Christian Warriors". It is a small institution presently numbering only thirty students, but for several decades it has been the principal source of this denomination's seminarians who are educated for the ministry and other church missions at Faith Seminary in Pennsylvania.
Shelton College purports to award Bachelors' degrees in the Arts, Sacred Theology, Christian Education and Sacred Music. It receives no local, state or federal funds due to the beliefs of Bible Presbyterian Church respecting the separation of church and state.
Plaintiffs Wilson, Gsell, Michael and Bashaw are full-time students at Shelton College who profess to be "born again" Christians of fundamentalist Christian faith and who have elected to attend the college and wish to continue their education there by reason of their religious convictions.
Plaintiffs Everette Charles Olson and Louise Olson, his wife, are the parents of Corrine Olson, a sophomore presently a student at Shelton College, Ken Olson, a 1979 graduate of Shelton College, and Claudia, a tenth grade high school student who hopes to attend Shelton College. These parents believe that Shelton College is an institution of post-secondary education which fulfills the religious and moral goals which they desire for their children. Unlike many institutions of higher learning which are church-related but which are now virtually indistinguishable from purely secular institutions, Shelton College remains totally oriented to its religious beliefs and practices.
Plaintiff Everette Charles Olson is also a professor of mathematics and chemistry at Shelton College. He serves as a full-time faculty member at the College and is a practicing member of Bible Presbyterian Church and a "born again" Christian. He pursues his work as a religious ministry.
2. The Parties Defendant:
Defendant New Jersey State Board of Higher Education is the supervisory body of the Department of Higher Education of the State of New Jersey.
Defendant T. Edward Hollander is Chancellor of the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education and serves as its chief executive officer.
Defendant Richard D. Breslin is Assistant Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the Department of Higher Education of the State of New Jersey and is responsible for the licensing and approval of institutions of post-secondary education in the State of New Jersey.
Defendant Amorita Suarez is the Director of the Office for Independent Colleges and Universities of the Department of Higher Education of the State of New Jersey, which is responsible for processing and approving applications for licensing of institutions of higher learning for the State of New Jersey.
3. The Contested Statutes:
Shelton College does not possess a license from the State of New Jersey authorizing it to confer degrees, and in this action plaintiffs seek a judgment declaring the application of the State licensing and approval scheme as applied to Shelton College to be violative of their rights protected by the First, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
The Board of Higher Education has the duty of general supervision of higher education in the State of New Jersey pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:3-1, Et seq., and N.J.S.A. 18A:68-1, Et seq.
If an institution carries on the business of such instruction or teaching or confers any such degree without a license issued under this statute, the Board of Higher Education is authorized to bring a civil action in the Superior Court to restrain the institution from engaging in such activity until it has obtained a license or the approval of the Board of Higher Education. N.J.S.A. 18A:68-5.
If an institution or any of its officers confer or participate in conferring any degree upon a student contrary to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 18A:68-1, Et seq., or sign any certificate or diploma as evidence of the conferring of a degree, the institution or such officers may be fined not more then $ 300 for each offense. N.J.S.A. 18A:68-9. Failure to pay this penalty will result in commitment to a county jail for a period not exceeding ninety days. 18A:68-10.
More than a decade ago Shelton College instituted an action in the State courts attacking the constitutionality of the statute relating to the granting of baccalaureate degrees, Shelton College v. State Bd. of Ed., 48 N.J. 501, 226 A.2d 612 (1967). The action was commenced by an appeal to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court from resolutions of the State Board of Education which set a cutoff date after which the College could not confer degrees. The reason for the action of the Board was that the College had not met the State's licensing requirements. The New Jersey Supreme Court certified and thereafter heard the case.
The grounds for the attack on the licensing statute were (i) it is beyond the power of the government to regulate in any way the awarding of a Bachelor's degree because of the right of free speech guaranteed in the Constitutions of the United States and New Jersey; (ii) the statute fails to set forth a sufficient standard for the exercise of the legislative power delegated to the State Board in violation of the State Constitution; (iii) the statute creates an unconstitutional classification in that it exempts colleges which had the power to confer the degree twenty-five years before the enactment of the statute; and (iv) the Board has no power to condition approval upon terms to be met and thus to subject the approval upon annual decisions as to whether it should be withdrawn for failure to meet the terms.
It should be noted that the record in that case consisted only of the notice of appeal and the two resolutions of the State Board of Education. There was nothing in the record setting forth the nature of Shelton College as a religious institution.
There are no significant differences for present purposes between the statute under review in Shelton College v. State Bd. of Ed., supra, and the statute at issue in the present case.
In the opinion in that case, written by Chief Justice Weintraub, the Court reviewed with great care the history of legislation requiring State Board licensing of degree-granting institutions of higher learning. The Court upheld the statute, ruling against the College on all of its grounds of invalidity. In view of the relief which the defendants seek in their pending action in the New Jersey courts described hereinafter, it is important to note what the Court did and did not decide in the Shelton College case. It upheld the power of the State Board to refuse to license Shelton College to grant degrees, and presumably it would have upheld action of the State designed ...