In a ruling that could be seen as good news for churches across the nation hawking caffeinated stimulants and Danish rolls in Starbuck knock-off cafes, an all-you-can eat buffet is now legal at one large Ohio church.
A federal appeals court has ruled that an Ohio pastor did not violate labor laws by urging members of his congregation to volunteer at the church’s for-profit restaurant which was located off-site.
A lower court had ruled churchgoers were effectively employees of Cathedral Buffet, located at Ernest Angley’s church in Cuyahoga Falls. Angley is a televangelist.
The U.S. Department of Labor argued that Angley coerced church members into working by saying refusal could be a sin.
The charges, brought under the Obama administration in 2015, said violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime and child-labor provisions, and alleged he owed $207,975 in back wages and an equal amount in damages.
According to the Labor Department’ the televangelist, who regularly criticized the Obama administration on a number of issues, violated several laws including improperly treating certain workers as “volunteers” and paid them no wages. These 209 volunteers worked in the buffet restaurant cooking, cleaning, waiting on tables, stocking and maintaining the buffet line, and as cashiers.
The appeals court said Monday that the law deals with economic coercion, not spiritual coercion. The judges said churchgoers were not employees because they had no expectation of compensation.
The buffet, once popular for good and inexpensive food, is now closed.