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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