Rutherford Institute Files Lawsuit in Defense of Christian Employee Fired for Voicing Religious Objection to Workplace Diversity Training
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have come to the defense of a Christian systems engineer who was allegedly fired after voicing a religious objection to his employer’s diversity training initiative, which included a requirement that employees accept, celebrate and embrace homosexuality. In filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa on behalf of Thomas Meeker, Institute attorneys allege that Rockwell Collins, Inc., violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a comparable provision of Iowa law when it refused to grant Meeker’s request to be exempted from aspects of the company’s diversity training that conflicted with his religious beliefs about homosexuality.
“This case has to do with the freedom of conscience—the right of individuals to object to something they believe is wrong, especially when it contradicts their religious beliefs, whether it is war, abortion, homosexuality or a number of other issues,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “This is just one case among many in which employees continue to be wrongfully denied accommodation and the right to freedom of conscience because of their religious beliefs—rights guaranteed both under federal law and under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Thomas Meeker has worked as a Systems Engineer for Rockwell Collins at its Cedar Rapids facility off and on since 1985. In May 2007, Meeker, a devout Christian, was directed to complete a computer-based diversity training initiative, which he determined promoted homosexuality and included a requirement that employees accept, celebrate and embrace homosexuality. According to the complaint, after expressing his objections to the training, Meeker was placed on unpaid leave and ordered to attend a meeting with members of Rockwell Collins’ human resources department. At the scheduled meeting, Meeker asked to be excused from any diversity training that conflicted with his religious beliefs concerning homosexuality. Rockwell Collins did not grant Meeker’s request and continued his suspension from work. Subsequently, Meeker received a letter from Rockwell Collins denying his request for accommodation and asserting that the company was only asking Meeker to treat his co-workers with respect.
The letter also informed Meeker that he could return to work if he were willing to behave in accordance with company policies and participate in all company-mandated training; if not, Rockwell Collins would deem him to have voluntarily resigned. Unwilling to resign, Meeker returned to work but informed his manager that he could not agree to participate in all required training. He was immediately ordered to leave the facility. A week later, Meeker received a letter from Rockwell Collins terminating his employment on the grounds that “we believe that you are unwilling to treat gay or lesbian co-workers with respect in the workplace.” The letter also stated that Meeker’s refusal to participate in all training “impedes your ability to perform your job in a manner consistent with our Standards of Business Conduct policy.” In filing suit in district court, Rutherford Institute attorneys allege that Rockwell Collins discriminated against Meeker on the basis of his religion. Institute attorneys also pointed out that Rockwell Collins erroneously presumed that Meeker’s religious beliefs would prevent him from treating other employees with respect, even though there was no evidence supporting this assumption.
The Rutherfold Institute