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Heckmann v. Cemeteries Association

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 17, 1984.

MARTIN HECKMANN ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

CEMETERIES ASSOCIATION OF GREATER CHICAGO ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES (THE PEOPLE EX REL. NEIL F. HARTIGAN, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL., INTERVENING DEFENDANTS).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur L. JUSTICE MCGLOON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiffs filed a declaratory judgment action challenging the constitutionality and validity of "An Act to permit certain burials on Sundays and legal holidays * * *." On appeal from an order granting defendants-intervenors' motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs contend: (1) the Act violates the establishment clause of the United States Constitution and article I, section 3, of the Illinois Constitution; (2) State action in the area of labor relations is preempted by Federal law; (3) the Act violates the equal protection clauses of the United States and Illinois constitutions and the Illinois constitutional prohibition on special legislation; (4) their right of free exercise of religion guaranteed under the constitution and the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 is abridged by the Act; (5) the Act mandates involuntary servitude; (6) the Act violates due process; and (7) the obligations of contract are impaired by the Act.

We affirm.

The subject of this appeal is "An Act to permit certain burials on Sundays and legal holidays * * *" (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 21, par. 101 et seq.). The pertinent provisions of the Act provide:

"Sec. 1. (a) Every contract, agreement or understanding between a cemetery authority and a cemetery workers' association which totally prohibits burials of human remains on Sundays or legal holidays shall be deemed to be void as against public policy and wholly unenforceable.

(b) Nothing in this Section shall prohibit a cemetery authority and a cemetery workers' association from entering into a contract, agreement or understanding which limits Sunday or holiday burials of human remains to decedents who were members of religious sects whose tenets or beliefs require burials within a specified period of time and whose deaths occurred at such times as to necessitate Sunday or holiday burials. Such contract, agreement or understanding may provide that a funeral director notify the cemetery authority within a reasonable time when a Sunday or holiday burial is necessitated by reason of the decedent's religious tenets or beliefs.

(c) It shall be unlawful for any person to restrain, prohibit or interfere with the burial of a decedent whose time of death and religious tenets or beliefs necessitate burial on a Sunday or legal holiday.

"Sec. 2. Any person aggrieved by any conduct of a cemetery authority or cemetery workers' association which is prohibited by Section 1 may maintain an action in the circuit court of the county in which the violation occurred to enjoin any conduct in violation of that Section. The circuit court may enter an expedited order or temporary restraining order without notice and hearing to protect the rights of persons aggrieved by such conduct in violation of Section 1 of this Act." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 21, pars. 101(a), 101(b), 101(c), and 102.

Plaintiffs Martin Heckmann and Edward T. Cawley, elected representatives of Local 106, AFL-CIO Employees International Union, filed a class action on behalf of union members seeking to have the Act declared invalid and unconstitutional. The named defendants were Cemeteries Association of Greater Chicago, Inc., an association of approximately 30 cemetery owners and operators, and Robert Rothschild, director of the Association's labor committee. The State of Illinois, the Jewish Burial Society, the Jewish Sacred Society, Agudath Israel of Illinois, Merkaz Harabonim-Chicago Orthodox Rabbinate, Congregation Poalei Zedek, Maine Township Jewish Congregation, Congregation Ezras Israel and Congregation Shaarei Tfiloh B'nai Reuven Nusach Hoari were granted leave to intervene.

Plaintiffs' complaint alleged that Rothschild, in his capacity as director of the labor committee and as operator of Evergreen Cemetery, told Cawley that after the effective date of the Act, any cemetery worker refusing to perform duties on Sundays or holidays would be fired. Under the collective bargaining agreement entered into by plaintiffs and the Association, the following holidays were designated workless holidays: New Year's Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and the employee's birthday. The agreement further provided that no funeral services, interments, cremations or storages would be held on such holidays or Memorial Day except for cases where immediate burial was required by board of health regulations. Also, by custom and mutual understanding between cemetery workers and owners, no work is performed on Sunday, the day workers observe as their day of rest and religious holiday.

Plaintiffs' motion for judgment on the pleadings was denied, and the trial court entered an order granting defendants-intervenors' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons advanced in the issues which follow, plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred in granting the motion for summary judgment. All of the issues raised on appeal were raised in plaintiffs' complaint.

• 1 First, plaintiffs contend the Act violates the establishment clause of the United States Constitution and article I, section 3, of the Illinois Constitution, which prohibits preference to any religious denominations or mode of worship.

Generally, the establishment clause of the first amendment, made applicable to the States by the fourteenth amendment (Everson v. Board of Education (1947), 330 U.S. 1, 91 L.Ed. 711, 67 S.Ct. 504), prohibits governmental sanctioning of the tenets of any and all religions. (School District v. Schempp (1963), 374 U.S. 203, 10 L.Ed.2d 844, 83 S.Ct. 1560.) Neither the States nor the Federal Government may pass laws which aid religion or prefer one religion over another. (Everson v. Board of Education (1947), 330 U.S. 1, 91 L.Ed. 711, 67 S.Ct. 504.) Nevertheless, statutes which confer benefits or give special recognition to religion in general or to one faith are not invalidated merely on that basis; rather, legislation must be examined to determine whether it establishes a religion or religious faith or tends to do so. Lynch v. Donnelly (1984), 465 U.S. 668, 79 L.Ed.2d 604, 104 S.Ct. 1355.

To defeat a challenge based on the establishment clause, a statute generally must satisfy three criteria: (1) the law must have a secular legislative purpose; (2) its principal effect must neither advance nor inhibit religion; and (3) the law must avoid excessive government entanglement with religion. (Lynch v. Donnelly (1984), 465 U.S. 668, 79 L.Ed.2d 604, 104 S.Ct. 1335; Larkin v. Grendel's Den, Inc. (1982), 459 U.S. 116, 74 L.Ed.2d 297, 103 S.Ct. 505; Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), 403 U.S. 602, 29 L.Ed.2d 745, 91 S.Ct. 2105.) All the facts and circumstances of each case must be considered (Lynch v. Donnelly (1984), 465 U.S. 668, 79 L.Ed.2d 604, 104 S.Ct. 1335; Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), 403 U.S. 602, 29 L.Ed.2d 745, 91 S.Ct. 2105), and, at times, the three-part test set forth above has not been applied. In fact, in Lynch, the court noted that courts> are not confined to any single test in this area. (465 U.S. 668, 679, 79 L.Ed.2d 604, 613, 104 S.Ct. 1335, 1362.) Regardless of the approach used in this case, we find that the Act does not violate the establishment clause.

The act in question has a valid secular purpose. The record indicates that certain religious groups were required to conduct burials on Sundays or holidays because of their religious beliefs and could not always act in accordance with their beliefs because under certain labor agreements, cemetery workers did not have to perform interments on those days. The Act eliminated the discriminating effect of the agreements. Statutes designed to eliminate even unintentional discrimination and to accommodate religious beliefs are secular in purpose. (Nottelson v. Smith Steel Workers D.A.L.U. 19806, AFL-CIO (7th Cir. 1981), 643 F.2d 445, 454, cert. denied (1981), 454 U.S. 1046, 70 L.Ed.2d 488, 102 S.Ct. 587.) Furthermore, the Act does confer a benefit to one group to the exclusion of others, but relieves a burden on those who were unable to freely exercise their beliefs. It neither requires a particular religious affiliation or theological position nor inhibits the exercise of religious beliefs. Therefore, the Act meets the second criteria. (Nottelson v. Smith Steel Workers D.A.L.U. 19806, AFL-CIO (7th Cir. 1981), 643 F.2d 445.) Finally, we find that the statute does not foster excessive ...


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