Fishers Adolescent Catholic Enrichment v. Elizabeth Bridgewater, et al. - 3/19/13

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Tuesday  March 19, 2013 
10:30 AM  EST

10:30 a.m. 93A02-1202-EX-145. FACES, Inc., is private, non-profit organization formed to provide social and educational opportunities for home-schooled children.  The founders of the organization are Catholic parents and the majority, though not all, of the members are Catholic.  At the time this dispute arose, FACES offered a number of educational courses, none of which related to religion.  FACES also sponsored occasional social events.  In 2008, FACES sponsored a ball, and one of the parents, Elizabeth Bridgewater, requested special dietary accommodations for her child, Alyssa, who planned to attend.  Alyssa suffers from a condition that can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction if she eats certain foods.  The Bridgewaters were unhappy with FACES’ treatment of their daughter’s dietary needs and filed an accommodation complaint with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (“ICRC”).   Shortly thereafter, the Bridgewaters were expelled from FACES.  They filed an additional complaint with the ICRC, alleging that FACES had retaliated against them due to their filing of the accommodation complaint.

 
FACES moved to dismiss the complaints, arguing that the ICRC did not have jurisdiction over FACES, which it characterized as a religious-based organization.  An ALJ ultimately ruled that the ICRC did have jurisdiction under Indiana’s Civil Rights Law (“ICRL”) because FACES’ functions “relate to” education.  See Ind. Code § 22-9-1-3(1)(4).  The ALJ later ruled on the merits of the Bridgewater’s complaints, concluding that FACES did not commit an unlawful discriminatory practice as to accommodating Alyssa, but did commit an unlawful discriminatory practice when it expelled the Bridgewater family after they filed the accommodation complaint.  The ALJ awarded the Bridgwaters $5000 in damages and ordered FACES to: (1) cease and desist from retaliating against persons because they filed a complaint with the ICRC; (2) post a link to the ALJ’s order on all web sites on which they have communicated information regarding the case; and (3) offer reinstatement of the Bridgewater family to full membership, including all benefits.  Both parties appealed, and the original order was affirmed in all respects, except in that the ALJ decreased the amount of damages to $2500.
 

Both parties now appeal.  The main issues raised on appeal relate to the ICRC’s jurisdiction over FACES and the corrective action FACES was ordered to undertake.  In addition, the parties challenge the ALJ’s conclusions as to accommodation and retaliation, and damages. 

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  1. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  2. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

  3. This outbreak illustrates the absurdity of the extreme positions taken by today's liberalism, specifically individualism and the modern cult of endless personal "freedom." Ebola reminds us that at some point the person's own "freedom" to do this and that comes into contact with the needs of the common good and "freedom" must be curtailed. This is not rocket science, except, today there is nonstop propaganda elevating individual preferences over the common good, so some pundits have a hard time fathoming the obvious necessity of quarantine in some situations....or even NATIONAL BORDERS...propagandists have also amazingly used this as another chance to accuse Western nations of "racism" which is preposterous and offensive. So one the one hand the idolatry of individualism has to stop and on the other hand facts people don't like that intersect with race-- remain facts nonetheless. People who respond to facts over propaganda do better in the long run. We call it Truth. Sometimes it seems hard to find.

  4. It would be hard not to feel the Kramers' anguish. But Catholic Charities, by definition, performed due diligence and held to the statutory standard of care. No good can come from punishing them for doing their duty. Should Indiana wish to change its laws regarding adoption agreements and or putative fathers, the place for that is the legislature and can only apply to future cases. We do not apply new laws to past actions, as the Kramers seem intent on doing, to no helpful end.

  5. I am saddened to hear about the loss of Zeff Weiss. He was an outstanding member of the Indianapolis legal community. My thoughts are with his family.

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