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Adair v. England

July 31, 2002

ROBERT H. ADAIR ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GORDON R. ENGLAND, SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
CHAPLAINCY OF FULL GOSPEL CHURCHES ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GORDON R. ENGLAND, SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge

Document No.: 60

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION TO DELAY THE NAVY'S CHAPLAIN PROMOTION BOARDS UNTIL AFTER THE COURT RULES ON THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THOSE BOARDS

I. INTRODUCTION

These cases come before the court on the pla intiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction to delay the Navy's chaplain promotion boards until after the court rules on the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on the constitutionality of those boards. *fn1

The plaintiffs, current and former Navy chaplains and an ecclesiastical endorsing agency for military chaplains, bring these suits alleging that the Navy's policies and practices favor one religion over another in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, and in violation of the Fifth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Specifically, the plaintiffs charge that the hiring, retention, and promotion policies of the Navy Chaplain Corps demonstrate an unconstitutional endorsement of liturgical Christian sects over non-liturgical Christian sects. *fn2 For the reasons that follow, the court denies the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.

II. BACKGROUND

Although the above-captioned cases are not consolidated for all purposes, they have been consolidated for purposes of all pretrial pending motions. *fn3 In the Chaplaincy case, the plaintiffs are an endorsing agency for military chaplains and seven of its individual members. In the Adair case, the plaintiffs are 17 current and former non-liturgical chaplains in the Department of the Navy ("the defendants," "Navy," or "DON"). In both cases, the plaintiffs allege that the Navy has established and maintained an unconstitutional religious quota system for promotion, assignments, and retention of Navy chaplains, in violation of both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the Navy's policies and practices favor liturgical Christian chaplains over non-liturgical Christian chaplains. *fn4

On January 10, 2002, the court issued a Memorandum Opinion granting in part and denying in part the defendants' motion to dismiss. Adair v. England, 183 F. Supp. 2d 31 (D.D.C. 2002). The court held: that strict scrutiny applies to the plaintiffs' First Amendment and equal protection claims; that the plaintiffs did not need to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court; that the plaintiffs had stated a claim that the Navy's hiring and retention policies violate the Establishment Clause; that the Navy's practices of allowing chaplains to rate other chaplains for promotions and of allowing multiple chaplains to serve on promotion boards do not violate the Establishment Clause; that the plaintiffs had stated a claim that the Navy's practice of displaying the religious identity of chaplains up for promotion violates the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause; that the Navy's practice of having only "General Protestant" religious services could violate the Establishment Clause; and that the plaintiffs had stated a free speech claim. Id.

On January 4, 2002, the plaintiffs filed their third motion for injunctive relief in the above-captioned cases. *fn5 The plaintiffs sought to delay the convening of the Navy's chaplain promotion boards for fiscal year ("FY") 2003 that were scheduled to begin on February 4, 2002. In short, the plaintiffs challenged the legality of chaplain promotion boards on a number of grounds. On February 1, 2002, the court denied the plaintiffs' motion. Because the plaintiffs cannot demonstrate irreparable harm, they do not meet the high standard for the issuance of a preliminary injunction.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Injunctive Relief

This court may issue a preliminary injunction only when the movant demonstrates:

(1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, (2) that it would suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted, (3) that an injunction would not substantially injure other interested parties, and (4) that the public interest would be furthered by the injunction. Mova Pharm. Corp. v. Shalala, 140 F.3d 1060, 1066 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (quoting CityFed Fin. Corp. v. Office of Thrift Supervision, 58 F.3d 738, ...


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