Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

IN RE RABBINICAL SEMINARY NETZACH ISRAEL RAMAILIS

May 10, 1978

IN RE GRAND JURY SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM SERVED UPON RABBINICAL SEMINARY NETZACH ISRAEL RAMAILIS DATED APRIL 11, 1978


The opinion of the court was delivered by: NICKERSON

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 NICKERSON, District Judge

 A grand jury sitting in this district served a subpoena on April 11, 1978 upon a representative of the Rabbinical Seminary Netzach Israel Ramailis ("the Seminary"). The subpoena demanded the production of a variety of documents and financial records. An "Advice of Rights" form annexed to the subpoena informed the Seminary that the grand jury is investigating possible violations of 18 U.S.C. ยง 1001, which makes it a crime to make false statements or to use any false documents in any matter within the jurisdiction of a United States department or agency. The Seminary commenced this proceeding in the form of a motion to quash the subpoena.

 The Seminary is a rabbinical teaching institution with historical roots in Vilna, Lithuania. Now located in Brooklyn, New York, the Seminary began in July 1969 to participate in a variety of aid to education programs sponsored by the United States government. In March 1976, the Office of Education of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (the "Office of Education") began a "program review" of the Seminary's participation in the aid programs. At that time, the Seminary and the Office of Education agreed that the Seminary would suspend participation in the programs and submit records requested by the Office of Education.

 During the next two years, the Seminary produced various records, the Office of Education required the Seminary to improve its record-keeping, and further records were submitted. The "program review" escalated into a full-scale audit by the Audit Agency of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The Audit Agency submitted a draft audit to the Seminary in February 1978 for comments. According to the Assistant United States Attorney representing the grand jury in this proceeding, the Office of the Inspector General suspended further administrative proceeding and referred "the matter" to the United States Attorney for criminal investigation in March 1978.

 The grand jury has served two subpoenas upon representatives of the Seminary. The Seminary complied with the first one, served on March 14, 1978. This proceeding challenges only the April 11, 1978 subpoena. Counsel for the Seminary asserts that this subpoena violates the Seminary's rights under the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution, and alleges that the grand jury investigation

 
"is being used solely as a vehicle by the Office of Education to continue harassing [the Seminary] . . . in order to keep the [Seminary] from being reinstated [as a participant in federal aid-to-education programs] . . . and to punish [the Seminary] for having exercised its right to petition government officials to seek to speed up the [administrative] review process."

 I

 The Seminary claims two distinct First Amendment protections in support of its challenge to the subpoena. First it claims that the demand for records creates a "chilling effect" on the free exercise of religion.

 The Free Exercise Clause provides two forms of protection of religious freedom. First, government is absolutely prohibited from regulation, discrimination or penalization of religious beliefs as such. Second, regulation of acts predicated on religious beliefs meets constitutional standards only if some compelling governmental interest is served by that regulation. Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 10 L. Ed. 2d 965, 83 S. Ct. 1790 (1963); Murdock v. Com. of Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, 87 L. Ed. 1292, 63 S. Ct. 870 (1940); Stevens v. Berger, 428 F. Supp. 896 (E.D.N.Y. 1977). The Free Exercise Clause is no talisman, however, which automatically protects religious organizations from any governmental regulation. The religious character of an organization does not provide a shield from regulation which in no way affects either religious beliefs or acts. Securities and Exchange Commission v. World Radio Mission, Inc., 544 F.2d 535 (1 Cir. 1976); United States v. Top Sky, 547 F.2d 486 (9 Cir. 1976); Hearde v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 421 F.2d 846 (9 Cir. 1970); Muhammad Temple of Islam-Shreveport v. City of Shreveport, 387 F. Supp. 1129 (W.D.La. 1974), aff'd 517 F.2d 922 (5 Cir. 1975).

 The Seminary makes no claim that the subpoena was issued as part of an attack on its students', faculty members', or administrators' Jewish beliefs. Nor does it appear that production of the demanded records would violate any tenet of Judaism. The grand jury has not required compliance with the subpoena in a manner at odds with Jewish law or belief by, for instance, requiring Seminary officials to appear on a holiday. See Smilow v. United States, 465 F.2d 802 (2 Cir. 1972), vac. on other grs., 409 U.S. 944, 93 S. Ct. 268, 34 L. Ed. 2d 215 (1972). In none of these particulars does the challenged subpoena restrain the free exercise of religion.

 Accepting the fact that the Talmudic and Biblical studies conducted at the Seminary are as integrally related to Judaism as the door-to-door proselytizing was to the faith of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Murdock v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, supra, production of the documents listed in the challenged subpoena would not directly interfere with those studies. *fn1" To the extent that compliance with the subpoena might indirectly interfere with students' or potential students' willingness to study at the Seminary, *fn2" such a claim is best understood as arising under the right of freedom of association guaranteed by the First Amendment. See Matter of Wood, 430 F. Supp. 41, 46 (S.D.N.Y. 1977).

 II

 There can be no doubt that compelled disclosure of financial transactions and records "can seriously infringe on privacy of association and belief guaranteed by the First Amendment." Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 64, 46 L. Ed. 2d 659, 96 S. Ct. 612 (1976). The Seminary claims that compliance with the challenged subpoena will have an inhibiting effect on its students' and faculty members' constitutionally protected right to participate in the Seminary's program of studies. To evaluate this claim, it is first necessary to determine whether the freedom of association is affected at all by the grand jury's demand. If so, the next step is to evaluate the grand jury's claim that its subpoena meets the strict standard applicable to governmental demands for information which inhibit the enjoyment of that freedom.

 The challenged subpoena requires the Seminary to produce a variety of accounting and financial ledgers, worksheets, journals and documents. The list of eighteen items is set forth as an Appendix to this opinion. The requested documentation will reveal to the grand jury the identity and financial status of many Seminary students; the identity, salary, and, perhaps, academic discipline of Seminary faculty members; the identity of the Seminary's vendors, including book suppliers, and, perhaps, the titles of volumes used by the Seminary.

 In recognizing the constitutional implications of compulsory disclosure of financial records in Buckley v. Valeo, supra, at 66, the Court explicitly adopted Justice Powell's comment, concurring in the judgment in California Bankers Ass'n v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21, 78-79, 39 L. Ed. 2d 812, 94 S. Ct. 1494 (1974):

 
"Financial transactions can reveal much about a person's activities, associations, and beliefs."

 Privacy of belief is particularly important to schools and educators, since threats to that privacy simultaneously threaten academic freedom in that contest. See, e.g., Sweezy v. State of New Hampshire, 354 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.