to do with the religious reason for her termination.
Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgement as a matter of law. Jung v. FMC Corp., 755 F.2d 708, 710 (9th Cir. 1985); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1976). A dispute as to a material fact is "genuine" if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. The court may not weigh the evidence, and is required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id.
A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, she must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. However, on an issue for which her opponent will have the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely by "pointing out to the District Court . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id.
If the moving party meets its initial burden, the opposing party must then "set forth specific facts showing that there is some genuine issue for trial" in order to defeat the motion. Anderson, supra at 250; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A grant of summary judgment is reviewed de novo by the appellate court; a denial of summary judgment is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. United States v. 5,644,540 in U.S. Currency, 799 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1986).
As noted above, there is a dispute in the record as to the exact reason for plaintiff's termination. Therefore, the primary question before this Court is whether defendants' change in position raises material questions of fact which require resolution by a jury. Plaintiff apparently does not see a material difference between defendants' differing positions. However, it is apparent to this Court that defendants' "new" position -- that plaintiff was fired for adultery, and not on account of her pregnancy -- would not give rise to a Title VII claim. Congress has specifically exempted religious organizations from Title VII liability on the basis of religious discrimination. E. E. O. C. v. Pacific Press Publishing Ass'n, 676 F.2d 1272, 1276 (9th Cir. 1982); Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, et. al. v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327, 107 S. Ct. 2862, 97 L. Ed. 2d 273 (1987); see discussion infra at 7-12.
However, defendants' "old" position -- that plaintiff was fired because she was pregnant and not married -- raises the possibility of sex discrimination. If Title VII does not apply to that decision, there would obviously be no material fact in dispute because plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under Title VII in either event. If Title VII does apply, however, the dispute as to the true basis for plaintiff's termination becomes material. Therefore, it is necessary to determine whether Title VII applies to a decision to fire plaintiff based on her pregnancy and whether that application overcomes First Amendment scrutiny.
I. TITLE VII CLAIM
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et. seq. Section 2000e-2(a) states that:
it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer