Secaucus, NJ is not typically thought of as a hub of Evangelical Christianity, but the CEO and the managers of an Ashley Furniture store in the northern New Jersey town seem to have a difficult time separating their work lives from their religious beliefs and they’re being sued for it.
Isabel Perez is gay and she claims she was fired for it. If true, her former employer broke New Jersey law right there, but it gets a lot worse and a lot weirder. Perez is suing her former employer, Ashley Furniture HomeStore franchise, Factory Direct of Secaucus, in Federal Court. Her claim is against the company’s CEO, Eugene Chrinian and its director of people services and development, Kathy Martin.
According to Perez, the nightmare started with the job interview, where she was grilled about her religious views and marital status (both against federal law). They also made racist comments to the mixed-race Perez, calling African-Americans ‘Brownies’ and Caucasians, ‘Creamies.’
Perez is a member of the National Association of Christian Ministers. This fact, apparently, gave her prospective employers some reassurance as they asked her about her Christianity, asking if she was a ‘real Christian.’ She, however, did not want to disclose her sexual orientation, so she felt uncomfortable when they asked about her marital status.
After Perez was offered the job, she was asked to come to the office. From Courthouse News:
“At the start of this meeting, Martin took hold of plaintiff’s hands and began to pray to God to ask for guidance in addressing the particular work situation that they were set to discuss,” the complaint states.
“During this same meeting, Martin disclosed the fact that she was frequently possessed by Jesus and would sometimes speak in tongues without warning. At this meeting, Martin said that she ‘spoke to God’ and that she was ‘sure [they] would make a balanced team.
“During this meeting, Martin made a number of derogatory remarks about homosexuals, stating that ‘lesbos and gays would be judged’ and that she follows the ‘word of Leviticus’ – which purportedly condemns homosexuality – and that ‘there are many who call themselves true Christians, but they don’t know what that means.” (Brackets in complaint.)
While working for the store, Perez claims that she heard Martin call an employee, “nigga.” Perez asked that they refrain from that sort of language, to which Martin said, ”‘Girl, please. They’re different. It was nigga, not [the n-word].’ Martin then advised plaintiff that she needed to be more understanding of the company’s ‘culture.’”
Apparently, other derogatory words, such as “bitch,” “heifer,” “ghetto,” “lesbo,” and “fag” were also strewn at employees. When Perez complained about that, Martin allegedly laid her hands on Perez, so that ‘God could speak’ to her.
When Perez finally revealed her sexual orientation in October of 2012, she was fired. She and Martin were walking toward Perez’s car when Martin spotted a sticker for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ activist organization.
After Perez explained what the decal was, Martin asked if it was for ‘the gays,’ and then said she questioned her hiring decision, saying Perez did not fit in the company ‘culture.’ She said she would ‘speak to God.’
Martin prayed on it and decided that Perez must go, saying,
‘You just don’t fit our culture. … I need someone in your position that can embody our mission statement. Your beliefs just don’t fit.’ Martin stressed to plaintiff that the decision was not related to her work performance, telling plaintiff: ‘We all know you are very capable and can easily manage the entire department.’”
Chrinian, the store’s CEO, reportedly adheres to the philosophies of a group of Christian businesses called the C12 Group. The group, who seems to be in the business of making money from Christian businesses as much as in the business of being Christian, says on their website that they will help business owners achieve:
- A standing high-quality board of Christian CEO advisors and expert coaching
- Staying ‘on focus’ and accountable for strategic leadership
- Even one good idea gained per month via relevant MBA-caliber resources
- One life saved for eternity through your business
- Avoiding just one major mistake or temptation
- Targeted intercessory prayer for your Christian business and life
- An enhanced day-to-day ability to apply timeless Biblical wisdom to your business
- Finding the balance and joy which God desires for your life, family and Christian business
- A disciplined process providing one day per month of mental/physical/spiritual renewal and refreshment focused on the most important areas in your life
This document from the group’s Maryland chapter reveals a reluctant acknowledgement of anti-discrimination laws, but complains of activist judges and sets members up with an expectation of being sued for breaking employment laws. While it doesn’t directly tell its members that they are above the law, they call employment laws and secularism “tyranny” and compare them to Nazi Germany.
Unfortunately, consensus in today’s America is gained through an electorate in which just 8% possess a Biblical worldview.2 Increasing secularism and the ‘progressive’ notion that ever-evolving humans can now engineer a more perfect society has led to growing government activism and legal ‘positivism.’ Relativistic thinking justifies new laws and legal interpretations apart from any stable concept of morality or justice. Legal positivism dominates America’s legal profession today, where courtrooms are increasingly the domain of those who believe they are pragmatically engineering a more enlightened society. Such postmodern thinking provides little long-term protection from tyranny or from discrimination against those who think otherwise. As we’ve seen in recent decades, fixed standards of justice and morality are being increasingly abandoned as we ‘legalize’ things once widely viewed as evil and destructive. With legal positivism, there are no fixed laws or legal principles to serve as a predictable foundation for healthy families, commerce, etc. When laws are no longer linked to a transcendent view of right and wrong, it’s impossible to be sure of what’s permitted or forbidden. Instead, we’re simply left to react to unpredictable edicts emanating from our capitols and courthouses.
The dangers of legal positivism can be seen in Nazi Germany’s brief history, where the monstrously evil laws of Hitler’s Third Reich were seen as valid in a society that believed that the most powerful humans are the ones who ultimately define what’s right or wrong. In such systems (e.g., Marxism), government essentially becomes ‘deity’! In today’s America, by viewing our founding documents as “living” documents (i.e., subject to wholesale reinterpretation) and ignoring legal precedence prior to the current ‘enlightened’ generation, we’ve increasingly replaced the ‘rule of law’ with the ‘rule of judges’!3 The resulting confusion is eerily reminiscent of Israel’s woes during its own ‘judges’ period, in the second millennium before Christ, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jdg 21:25, ESV).
While the C12 Group is protective of its membership, its leadership is predictably white, middle-aged (and older) and male. Out of 59 Chairs, only one is a woman. Many are in construction related industries.
Perez is suing for punitive damages.