Duquesne to Defend Religious Freedom at NLRB Hearing Statement from President Dougherty - April 27, 2015

On Monday, April 27, Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit will be participating in a hearing before the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Pittsburgh regarding the attempt by the Steelworkers to unionize part-time faculty in our liberal arts college. 

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that this case is not about the rights of working men and women to organize.  Duquesne is committed to the Church's concern that the dignity of working men and women be respected, and that they have fair pay and safe working conditions. 

This case is about Duquesne's protection under the First Amendment from an unconstitutional intrusion of government control over us as a religious institution. The fact that the Steelworkers say that Duquesne's effort to protect that right "is not about God or religion" fully demonstrates their complete lack of understanding and denial of this University's religious mission and identity.

We are not the first school to be threatened with the infringement of our religious freedom. In the landmark case NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment provides an exemption from NLRB jurisdiction in order to protect an institution's religious liberty and identity.  Subsequent to the Catholic Bishop decision, a federal appellate court ruled that the NLRB-crafted test for religious exemption infringed on the First Amendment rights of religious institutions. 

That court established the proper criteria for religious exemption:  1) that an institution holds itself out to students, faculty and the community as providing a religious educational environment; 2) it is organized as a non-profit; and 3) it is affiliated with a religious institution.  Duquesne clearly meets these standards.

This hearing, and the others like it across the country, represents another attempt by a union to strip away First Amendment rights. The NLRB is disregarding the test mandated by the federal courts for determining whether or not Duquesne University's religious identity qualifies it for an exemption to be outside NLRB jurisdiction, and instead is applying a new "test" of its own. This new test was adopted by the NLRB (3-2) over the vigorous dissents of two of its own members-who warned that the new test "fails to avoid the possibility of conflict with the Religious Clauses of the First Amendment" and "suffered from the same infirmity denounced by the Supreme Court."

We stand by the principle enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court that the First Amendment is paramount and therefore we are exempt from NLRB jurisdiction.  Contrary to what the Steelworkers would have you believe, this case is indeed about religion. We therefore intend to defend and protect our mission as a Catholic, Spiritan institution, which for 137 years has faithfully served God by serving students.     

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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