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Christian Brothers Institute of New Jersey v. Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League

Decided: June 15, 1981.

CHRISTIAN BROTHERS INSTITUTE OF NEW JERSEY, T/A BERGEN CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
NORTHERN NEW JERSEY INTERSCHOLASTIC LEAGUE; BOARD OF EDUCATION OF BLOOMFIELD HIGH SCHOOL; BOARD OF EDUCATION OF BERGENFIELD HIGH SCHOOL; BOARD OF EDUCATION OF CLIFTON HIGH SCHOOL; BOARD OF EDUCATION OF FAIR LAWN HIGH SCHOOL; BOARD OF EDUCATION OF HACKENSACK HIGH SCHOOL; BOARD OF EDUCATION OF PARAMUS HIGH SCHOOL; BOARD OF EDUCATION OF PASSAIC VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL; BOARD OF EDUCATION OF RIDGEWOOD HIGH SCHOOL; BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TEANECK HIGH SCHOOL; AND BOARD OF EDUCATION OF WAYNE VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

For reversal -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford, Schreiber, Handler and Pollock. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Sullivan, J.

Sullivan

[86 NJ Page 411] Plaintiff Christian Brothers Institute of New Jersey, t/a Bergen Catholic High School (Bergen Catholic), filed the instant suit against defendant Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (League) in April 1976 after its several applications for League Membership had been denied. Bergen Catholic is a private, sectarian, boys' high school in Oradell, New Jersey, run by the Christian Brothers. It has experienced difficulty in scheduling athletic contests with high schools in its area for many years. Thus, in 1965, 1972 and 1974 it submitted applications for membership in the defendant League. The League is an athletic association organized for the purpose of fostering athletic competition among students of

member schools.*fn1 In each instance, Bergen Catholic was denied membership in the League ostensibly because the League's constitution limited membership to "public schools." In May 1974, Bergen Catholic filed a complaint against the League with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights charging a violation of the Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq., specifically, discrimination because of "creed."

After a series of conferences and discussions, a Conciliation Agreement (Agreement) was entered into in which the parties expressed their desire to settle the matter without the necessity of a public hearing, or a determination on the issue of discrimination. Under the Agreement, defendant League agreed to amend its constitution by deleting the word "public" from the article which limited membership to "public high schools of Northern New Jersey." The Agreement further provided that Bergen Catholic would be entitled to apply for membership in the League and, if a vacancy occurred, its application would be evaluated by objective and nondiscriminatory criteria. The Agreement specifically stated that it was to operate as a complete and final disposition of the matter with prejudice, subject only to fulfillment of the provisions of the Agreement pursuant to the enforcement section of the Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-17. The Director of the Division on Civil Rights formally approved the Agreement on March 5, 1976.

During the period that the Agreement was being negotiated, a vacancy occurred in League membership. A committee was appointed by the League to evaluate applicants and to develop objective criteria to be used in the evaluation. Eight high schools applied to fill the vacancy, including Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco, another nonpublic high school. Each of the applicant

schools was visited by the committee and evaluated according to the following eight criteria:

1. Location

2. Comprehensiveness of boys' program

3. Comprehensiveness of girls' program

4. Suitability of outdoor ...


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