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Christian school sues ex-teachers who refused to give proof of faith

Posted by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 9:34 AM
  • 9 Replies

Christian school sues ex-teachers who refused to give proof of faith


A Christian school in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is suing two former teachers who threatened a lawsuit over the school's requirement to provide proof of faith.

When the Godspeak Church bought Little Oaks Elementary in 2009, it started requiring employees to fill out questionnaires that asked whether they attended church, which church they attended and what the pastor had to say about their beliefs.

"We do believe their personal rights were violated," said the teachers' attorney, Dawn Coulson.

Coulson said Lynda Serrano and Mary Ellen Guevara received their questionnaires last summer. After they refused to fill out the form, they were not rehired. The teachers then filed paperwork saying they intended to sue.

The school's attorney, Rick Kahdeman, said the church exercised its constitutional right to freedom of religion. He said that trumps any claim the teachers may have under state equal employment laws.

"The teachers chose not to [fill out the paperwork], and they knew it was a condition of employment," Kahdeman said.

Coulson contends that California's employment laws protect her clients, in part, because the school northwest of Los Angeles was purchased by a church as a for-profit entity, not a nonprofit. She said employers can't require such questionnaires as a basis for employment, even if they are churches.

"That would be like the church buying shares in IBM, and IBM saying, 'We can now discriminate, based on religion,'" Coulson said.

"That issue is totally irrelevant because the rights of the school come from the First Amendment to the Constitution," Kahdeman countered.

Kahdeman is suing the two teachers and their attorneys in federal court.

by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 9:34 AM
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Replies (1-9):
JakeandEmmasMom
by Platinum Member on Jan. 29, 2013 at 9:56 AM

 Hmm...It was my understanding that private schools were allowed to discriminate based on faith.  I'll be interested to see the outcome of this case.

katy_kay08
by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 9:58 AM

I think the key to this case is the "for profit" component.   I find it interesting that the school is sueing the teachers.  I've not found anything that explains the basis of their lawsuit.  

Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

 Hmm...It was my understanding that private schools were allowed to discriminate based on faith.  I'll be interested to see the outcome of this case.


JakeandEmmasMom
by Platinum Member on Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:01 AM

 Ah.  That makes sense. 

I was surprised about that too.  What could be the basis of a lawsuit against a former employee?  You can't sue someone for threatening a lawsuit, so what's the deal?

Quoting katy_kay08:

I think the key to this case is the "for profit" component.   I find it interesting that the school is sueing the teachers.  I've not found anything that explains the basis of their lawsuit.  

Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

 Hmm...It was my understanding that private schools were allowed to discriminate based on faith.  I'll be interested to see the outcome of this case.


 

katy_kay08
by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:04 AM

IMO, the video interview with the school representative was quite telling.  It seems he believes the churches 1st Amendment protection trumps the 1st Amendment protections of the individuals.  There was an air of arrogance that was hard to miss.  

Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

 Ah.  That makes sense. 

I was surprised about that too.  What could be the basis of a lawsuit against a former employee?  You can't sue someone for threatening a lawsuit, so what's the deal?

Quoting katy_kay08:

I think the key to this case is the "for profit" component.   I find it interesting that the school is sueing the teachers.  I've not found anything that explains the basis of their lawsuit.  

Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

 Hmm...It was my understanding that private schools were allowed to discriminate based on faith.  I'll be interested to see the outcome of this case.


 


GLWerth
by Gina on Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:06 AM
1 mom liked this

I think the deal is simple: Intimidation. Make sure that all of your current employees are so afraid of you ruining their lives that they never speak up in any way.

This also ensures that any future employees won't ask questions or rock the boat in any way.

Doesn't it sound like an awesome religious institution? (Sarcasm, obviously)

Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

 Ah.  That makes sense. 

I was surprised about that too.  What could be the basis of a lawsuit against a former employee?  You can't sue someone for threatening a lawsuit, so what's the deal?

Quoting katy_kay08:

I think the key to this case is the "for profit" component.   I find it interesting that the school is sueing the teachers.  I've not found anything that explains the basis of their lawsuit.  

Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

 Hmm...It was my understanding that private schools were allowed to discriminate based on faith.  I'll be interested to see the outcome of this case.


 


 

yourspecialkid
by Platinum Member on Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:11 AM

 It is hard to reply without knowing why the school is suing.  I think the employees didn't file because it would have been a waste of time.  SCOTUS has many rulings on this issue...I don't recall any of them being specifically tied to being a non-profit...but because they are faith based.

 

Bookwormy
by Platinum Member on Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:11 AM
I see that the teachers may lose their case, but on what basis is the school countersuing? I don't get that part.

I filed an EEOC grievance against a former employer for refusing to approve my High Holiday request. I resigned & then filed - my error. I should have taken the time, been fired, and then I would have won. Anyway, the former employer wasn't allowed to 1)sue me or 2)say I'm ineligible for rehire. If they ever do, its retaliation, & I will win my next EEOC case against them.

Countersuing seems like retaliation to me.
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katy_kay08
by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:29 AM

the lawsuit filed by the school is to force any future litigation on this matter in federal court.  The school does not want to be subject to the state's laws.  

http://www.vcstar.com/news/2013/jan/25/christian-school-in-thousand-oaks-files-liberty/

Instead of settling, church and school leaders filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, asking for an injunction that would prevent the teachers from filing their lawsuit in a different venue. They wanted to make sure litigation took place in federal court.

Their suit names not only the two teachers but the law firm that represents them. It alleges the California Fair Employment and Housing Act is unconstitutional when used to restrict a religious school's hiring practices, even if the group is for-profit.


Stephanie329
by Platinum Member on Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:44 AM
I'm not sure I understand on what grounds they can sue the teachers.
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