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Educators Sue Over Religious Discrimination

November 7th, 2018

Two teachers in Pennsylvania initiate legal action against their school, claiming they faced discrimination over required Christian retreats.

Two teachers in Pennsylvania initiate legal action against their school, claiming they faced discrimination over required Christian retreats.

Two teachers that are husband and wife recently initiated legal action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Milton Hershey School where they work. The educators claim they faced discrimination, as their positions were terminated after airing complaints over the school’s repeated and required evangelical Christian retreats and sessions.

The Basis of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit against Hershey School claims that its non-evangelical Christian students and workers were penalized. Approximately 55% of the school’s students are reported to not have any religious preference, which allegedly led to unlawful activity on the part of the school. For example, one student claims that he was forced to watch gay conversion films while another student alleges that a school pastor made derogatory comments toward people with AIDS/HIV as well as homosexuals.

Response by the School

A spokesperson for Hershey School recently commented that the school intends to defend itself against this lawsuit. The spokesperson also commented that the school is confident that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will conduct its own investigation and dismiss the case as it has in the past. The spokesperson stated that the school is confident it will become clear why the teachers were dismissed and that the school will be found not guilty of discrimination.

The Goal of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a government agency that is responsible for administering and enforcing civil right laws involving workplace discrimination. The agency prohibits any employer from taking a person’s religion (as well as their color, race, gender identity, and sexual orientation) into consideration when deciding whether to discipline or discharge a worker. While the teachers claim that the school terminated their position due to religious reasons, which would not be permitted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the school maintains that its decision to terminate the teachers did not have anything to do with religion, and as a result, was a legally permissible action.

The Significance of the Case

Earlier this year, significant media attention was paid to The Hershey School’s conservative evangelical leanings. This lawsuit brings increased attention to the way certain religious views are enforced at the school, which is the country’s wealthiest private school.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

While the area of law concerning the separation between church and state is long established, there have been some significant debate in recent years about what exactly this law prohibits. The Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on keeping its readers up to date on the latest legal developments in this area.

(image courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon)

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