Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Jersey Requirement For Resident To Be On Retirement Home Board Violates Church's Associational Rights

In Wiley Mission, Inc. v. State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96473 (D NJ, Aug. 25, 2011), a New Jersey federal district court enjoined the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs from enforcing a portion of the Continuing Care Retirement Community Regulation and Financial Disclosure Act against a church that operated a residential retirement facility (CCRC) as part of its ministry to the elderly.  The facility contains 137 independent-living residential units, 53 residential healthcare beds, and 67 skilled nursing beds. Only 14 of the current residents are members of the church.  New Jersey law (NJ Code 52:27D-345) requires that the board of directors of every CCRC to include one resident as a full voting member of its board.  The board member is to be nominated by the elected representatives of the residents.  The church's CCRC is not separately incorporated, so this provision effectively requires the church to include a non-church member on the church board. While rejecting several other constitutional claims, the court held that this requirement unconstitutionally infringes the church's rights of expressive association. The CCRC "is inextricably linked to the Church's stated goal of evangelization."