In Wiley Mission v. New Jersey, 2011 WL 3841437, Case No. 10-3024 (RBK/JS) (D.N.J. Aug. 25, 2011), the court enjoined enforcement of a New Jersey law requiring every continuing care retirement center (CCRC) to include a resident as a full voting member of the CCRC's governing body. Wiley Mission, a church, operates a Christian retirement home that is not separately incorporated and, therefore, is subject to the church's governing board to further the church's goals of realizing the "Great Commission" and "revealing Christ." As Wiley put it, its CCRC is "part of a 'life-cycle' ministry" of the church that "strives to serve all ages and all areas of life, the spiritual as well as the physical." The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs threatened to withdraw its Certificate of Authority for lack of including a resident on the board, not due to any dissatisfaction with the quality of services rendered. To the contrary, residents and their families expressed exceptional satisfaction with the level of services rendered at the facility.
The Church sought declaratory and injunctive relief on the grounds that the New Jersey law violated its rights to Free Exercise, Equal Protection and Free Association under state and federal law. The court disagreed with respect to the first two claims, finding that the law was neutral and generally applicable, the Third Circuit has not endorsed a hybrid rights-styled claim and there was no evidence of selective enforcement of the law. But the court agreed that the law would violate the church's "freedom of association" and "freedom not to associate" with a resident on its board. The court said the violation did not stem from an infringement upon the church's association for religious purposes for lack of an underlying violation of the Free Exercise Clause, but due to infringement of its expressive purposes.
Applying a three-part constitutional test, the court found: (1) the church is an "expressive association," inasmuch as it seeks to carry out the Great Commission and the CCRC "is inextricably linked to the Church's stated goal of evangelization"; (2) the law "would directly interfere with the church's ability to control how the substance of its public and private expressions are developed and effectuated"; and (3) the Department offered no evidence that the law is narrowly tailored to achieve its goal of protecting senior citizens or that it is the least restrictive regulatory alternative. The Department argued that adding a single resident to its board would not interfere with its expressive rights because one vote does not make a majority, but the court disagreed on the grounds that the single vote could be a deciding vote and the single vote would not be guided by the same spiritual principles. The court also considered that other accountability measures could ensure resident safety, besides putting a resident on the church board.