Effective back in the 1970s, Jehovah's Witnesses are strictly forbidden to smoke or otherwise use tobacco products. JW Farmers are forbidden to grow tobacco. Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden to work at wholesale businesses or retail stores whose main product line are tobacco related products. Since Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden to gamble in any way, shape, or form, Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden to work at casinos, bingo halls, etc.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: Even working at a separate independent business located inside a casino or bingo hall "evidently" is forbidden. My own brother was hounded out of the JWs because of operating the food and drink concession at a local bingo hall. Despite being "inactive" for a substantial period of time, the local JW Elders hounded him until he "disassociated" himself just to get them to stop coming to his house. The Elders weren't trying to get him to stop his business, mend his ways, or even return to the Hall. Knowing that disfellowshipping him was "borderline", and might get them in trouble with the Circuit Overseer (District Manager), they repeatedly asked him to DA, until he finally did so, simply to get them to leave him alone. (And, YES, my wuss brother is my exact opposite.) Just to show how hypocritical those same JW Elders were/are, one of our JW relatives is a Farmowner, who was also a "JW Pioneer". Those same local JW Elders allowed this "JW Pioneer" to retain their farm's federal tobacco allotment throughout the years of the federal regulation. This JW Pioneer annually signed all the pertinent federal documents required to grow and sell their farm's tobacco, including the "check", and at the end of federal regulation apparently collected the substantial "buyout" all allotment owners received. The "excuse" was that a non-JW step-son performed all the tobacco labor and supposedly received all the tobacco income. Of course, handing the step-son this "financial windfall" never resulted in any indirect benefits from tobacco production to the JW Farmowner. I wonder how many JW Farmowners throughout the "tobacco belt", who surrendered their cash-cow tobacco allotments back in the 1970s, would burst a blood vessel if they knew that all they needed to do to retain their allotment was to "pioneer".
Then, a few years ago, the Watch Tower Society published that some previously forbidden employment activities could be performed by Jehovah's Witnesses, so long as the forbidden act only constituted an incidental part of the JW Employee's total job duties, and the performing of such act does not offend the JW Employee's conscience, nor offend the conscience of any other Jehovah's Witness who might observe the act.
Although the Watch Tower Society never admitted to such, some observers speculate that the Watch Tower Society's strict rules on such matters was hurting its' recruiting efforts with certain peoples who worked in certain job categories. For instance, the Watchtower rules against tobacco and gambling caused many Jehovah's Witnesses across the U.S. to forego working at convenience stores, which sell large quantities of cigarettes and lottery tickets.
So, the Watch Tower Society published that if the handling and selling of cigarettes and/or lottery tickets was only an incidental portion of the Jehovah's Witness Employee's total job duties, then JWs would be permitted to work in that job position, so long as such did not offend that JW Employee's conscience, or the conscience of any other Jehovah's Witness who might observe them handling and selling cigarettes and/or lottery tickets.
As an example of how difficult it may be for some employers to figure out what employment duties a JW Employee may find acceptable or unacceptable given that probably over the decades hundreds of JWs have refused or given up convenience store jobs simply because they would be required to occasionally sell tobacco products and lottery tickets (gambling), there are other JWs on the other end of the spectrum whose consciences do allow them to be employed in jobs which are closely related to gambling and similarly prohibited activities.
The career of Phil Georgeff, a Jehovah's Witness since 1946, may serve as such an example. "The Voice of Chicago Racing" may be one of the most famous people in the history of Chicago horse racing. The now retired legendary racetrack announcer was entered into the Guiness Book of World Records, in 1988, after he called his 85,000th horse race. Georgeff retired in December 1992 after calling his 96,131st race. "The Phil Georgeff Festival of Racing" is an annual event at the Hawthorne Race Course. Since retiring, Georgeff has authored two books about horse racing, and currently resides in Fairhope, Alabama, where he and his wife, Bobbi Georgeff, are "active" Jehovah's Witnesses.
LINCOLN v. TRUE was a 1975 Kentucky unemployment compensation case which ended up in federal court. Ethel Lincoln was a Jehovah's Witness who worked for 21 years as a production worker at Philip Morris in Louisville. In August 1974, Lincoln resigned "because the elders of Jehovah's Witnesses, a recognized religious sect of which she had been a member for 15 years, informed her that anyone using tobacco or working with tobacco products was violating the Will of God, and unless she resigned, she would be expelled from the fellowship of Jehovah's Witnesses." Lincoln filed a claim for unemployment compensation, which was denied by the state because Lincoln resigned 15 days before the Watchtower Society deadline kicked in.
The USDC ruled in Lincoln's favor stating that "it is obvious that she was acting under the compulsion which the church doctrine exerted on her conscience and on her beliefs as a member of the church. There was no other reason why she chose to terminate her employment with Philip Morris. Defendant's argument that the denial of unemployment compensation was not based on First Amendment grounds and on the exercise of her religion is lacking in substance. There appears in the record a statement made by K. E. Shad, Examiner for the defendants, who conferred with a representative of the Jehovah's Witnesses ... [from Lincoln's congregation]. During that conversation the representative verified that the ruling from the General Body of the Church was issued March, 1974, to the effect that members whose jobs involved them in having contact with either alcohol or tobacco were asked to get other jobs, because of the philosophy that in good conscience the members should not be helping to manufacture products which the church preached against and which were harmful to one's health. Shad also advised that the members of the church had three months to find other positions based on the church's philosophy that there were always other positions available and obtainable with divine intervention. Shad further stated that individuals of the church would not be barred from general meetings ... because the meetings were public, but that they would be barred from various other activities of the church because of their affiliation with alcohol or tobacco."
CHAN v. SPRINT CORPORATION was/is a 2005 Kansas federal lawsuit that also involves "smoking", and a Jehovah's Witness named Laural Chan. Chan worked at Sprint's Overland Park, Kansas location, which is approximately 200 acres and has 34 structures to service 14,000 employees. Chan filed an employment discrimination action against her employer alleging that she suffers from a hypersensitivity to cigarette smoke and other chemicals, and alleging that Sprint violated federal disability law and committed state torts by failing to discipline employees who violated the company's smoking policy, which restricts smoking to designated areas outside.
Chan claimed that when exposed to cigarette smoke, she develops an intense, extreme burning and itching in her eyes, which typically lasts for the remainder of the day on which she was exposed. She also develops headaches, burning in her breathing passages, and hacking coughs that can last for several days, as well as blurred vision lasting from a few hours up to a day. Since the summer of 2002, Chan claimed that she had suffered some or all of these symptoms from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke on 30-34 occasions. Chan claimed that in addition to the physical injuries she suffered due to smoke exposure, she also suffered secondary stress related issues, such as sores in her mouth, abdominal pain, and a rash. Stress-related chronic pain in her hands is also exacerbated when she is exposed to smoke. She also feels blown off because of her employment situation, often feels like crying, and frequently cries at home. Chan's sensitivity to environmental tobacco smoke has reduced the amount of proselytizing that she can do as a Jehovah's Witness. Chan had only gone out in "field service" about ten times over a two-year period, while other Jehovah's Witnesses go out as much as two to four hours per week.
In July/August 2002, Chan sent multiple e-mails to employee relations and human resources representatives complaining about smokers on campus violating the smoking policy. A human resources representative, responded to the e-mails, and sent a memo to all campus employees in Chan's business unit reminding them of the smoking policy, the designated areas, and the need to avoid walking to the areas with lighted cigarettes. She indicated that violators could be subject to "corrective action." Sprint also ran a series of announcements on television monitors reminding employees of the smoking policy. Sprint even asked Chan for her imput on how to prevent violations of the policy. Chan responded with a proposed revision of the smoking policy that involved using security guards to ticket violators, building shelters over the designated areas, conducting surveys or employee focus groups regarding the policy, and publicizing smoking cessation events.
Sprint responded by offering several accommodations, including suggesting that Chan use sidewalks and routes on the campus that do not pass by designated smoking areas, schedule all meetings in her building or arrange to attend by teleconference, and do a percentage of work from her home by telecommuting. Sprint later granted Chan's husband permission to stop his car on Sprint Parkway in order to pick her up and drop her off at the second-floor entrance to her building without being asked by campus security to move. Chan's supervisor has also allowed her to work from home and begin and leave work early when she has asked to do so based on smoke exposure issues. Sprint even offered Chan the option of having a campus security vehicle transport her between buildings. Chan sued anyway. The USDC summarily dismissed Chan's lawsuit. The court ruled that Chan did not have a disability under ADA, and even if she did, Sprint provided her with reasonable accommodation. Not known if Chan appealed.
IN RE LUCKY STORES was a 1987 arbitration which involved a female Jehovah's Witness Employee who was terminated after refusing to sell lottery tickets as part of her duties as a store clerk. At the arbitration proceeding, an "elder" from the JW Employee's congregation admitted that selling lottery tickets was not blanketly prohibited by the WatchTower Society. Rather, each individual JW was expected to consider how a variety of biblical proscriptions impacted their own employment circumstances, and make their own determination. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the JW Employee since she sincerely believed that selling lottery tickets violated biblical principles as she interpreted such. Additionally, the Employer admitted that it had failed to even attempt to "accommodate" the JW Employee by failing to consider her for other store positions.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES DO DRINK AND SELL ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
It is a common public misconception that the WatchTower Society prohibits its Jehovah's Witness members from consuming alcoholic beverages, and that Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to work at liquor, beer, or wine retailers, wholesalers, or manufacturers. In fact, there are numerous erroneous internet postings claiming such. In reality, because DRINKING is one of the few indulgences permitted by the WatchTower Society, there are a number of alcoholic Jehovah's Witnesses despite its warnings against such, and despite the fact that an alcoholic JW will likely be disfellowshiped if they allow their alcoholism to become known to the general public in a negative fashion. This editor has personally known members of "the 144,000", a/k/a "the anointed remnant", who were secret alcoholics. Of course, there were WatchTower Society President Joseph F. Rutherford and his drinking buddy, Hayden C. Covington, Vice-President of the WatchTower Society -- not to mention numerous online anecdotal stories of excessive Bethelite drinking at various WatchTower Society facilities.
In December 1982, Kimberley Miller, age 24, daughter of David Miller and Charlotte Miller, of Yadkinville, NC, was shot and killed during an armed robbery at a Steak & Ale in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Kim Miller worked as a bartender during the evenings to support her daytime avocation as a Jehovah's Witness Pioneer -- a "fulltime" door-knocker.
In June 1980, African-American Jehovah's Witness celebrity/singer George Benson appeared at St. Louis's inaugeral Kool Jazz Festival. Benson gave a pre-concert interview to an African-American reporter from St. Louis's African-American newspaper. Benson declared that he was a Jehovah's Witness and a devout Bible student. The article included a mini-sermon in which Benson further declared that the Bible contained all the answers to all of mankind's woes. The article further related that while in St. Louis, George Benson was presented the CLIO award , which is the advertising industry's top award (named for the Greek goddess Clio). Benson received the award in recognition of his work promoting the Michelob Beer brand, a product of St. Louis based Anheuser-Busch.
VERONICA BROWN v. NEBRASKA LIQUOR CONTROL COMMISSION was a 2012 Nebraska administrative action. Veronica Brown, a Jehovah's Witness living in Kimball, Nebraska, sought a state Liquor License in order to sell alcoholic beverages at her newly opened restaurant, but was initially denied such because Nebraska state law required Liquor Licensees to be registered voters -- and, of course, as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, Veronica Brown refused to register to vote. On appeal, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission -- not Nebraska's Supreme Court, nor even Nebraska's Court of Appeals -- declared the decades old state law to be "unconstitutional", and issued a Liquor License to Veronica Brown. Media articles also reported that Veronica Brown was assisted in the preparation of her case and the submission of applicable evidence by the Body of Elders at the Kimball Nebraska Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The following EXCERPT was authored in October 2011 by a Calgary, Alberta female Jehovah's Witness, named CHELSEA, who was FIRED by her Liquor Store Employer. This former JW Employee then posted an online public criticism of her employer and her termination. This excerpt is highly informative regarding certain attitudes of many Jehovah's Witness Employees:
A few days later we finally got our permanent Manager. At first she seemed like a really good Manager, but then she decided to surprise me and another girl with a final written letter (there was no first or second, just a final) stating that we had been doing the inventory counts wrong, and we would be fired if we didn't start doing them right. We did them the way the previous Manager taught us how to do them, we didn't deserve disciplinary action, but she said it was because her Manager said if she didn't she would be fired. She then taught us how we were supposed to do them which wasn't much different from what we were doing, just a little more detailed.
She also gave me another final letter at the same time stating: "Chelsea has been pushing her religion on other employees and there was a customer complaint about this." The disciplinary action: "She is no longer allowed to bring the AWAKE magazines onto the store premises."
I talked to all my co-workers about this and they all told me that they never felt like I was pushing my religion on them. I would never do that. But sometimes I would share my belief's with them, which the last time I checked, Canadians have the right to talk about their belief's, and practice their own religion. My religion requires that we obey Jesus commission to preach the good news to people of all nations (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:9-13). So by talking to people about the Bible I am practicing my religion, which I have the right to do. Of course, I would not irritate anyone who didn't want to hear it. I do believe in Canada, it is also a persons right to read any material they so desire. By telling me that I am not allowed to bring my reading material on store premises am I not also being prevented from practicing my personal rights and freedoms?
If I was a crazy person who was truly trying to stuff religion down people's throats, and therefore making many employees and customers uncomfortable, than I completely understand suspending a person like that for two weeks, as they did to me. Or even firing them. But there was only one customer complaint about me talking about my religion with another employee, and that customer most likely had a prejudice against Jehovah's Witnesses.
A few weeks after I came back from my suspension, on a Sunday, I was working with a new girl. When she came in she had a bad attitude even though I tried to be nice and cheerful. She treated the customers as if they were bothering her, and while I was doing the work our Manager asked us both to do, she was sitting around texting. I told my Manager about it, but after she talked to the new girl about it, the new girl apparently told her that I was the one with the bad attitude. Then on the day of my next shift which was the very next Sunday, my Manager calls me and tells me that last Sunday I got two customer complaints about my service, and the new girl got seven. She then said she was letting me go, as well as the new girl. I truly feel that it was all some sort of set up or lie to find a way to fire me. I don't know why they really wanted me out of there since I was "one of the best employees on staff," and I was the most cooperative, reliable, easy going, and caring employee I'm sure they've ever had. I worked on every holiday, and took over a lot of people's shifts when they needed help.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES
AND EMPLOYMENT WITH OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS
SHARON L. SHEPHERD v. GANNONDALE is an ongoing January 2014 Pennsylvania court case. Gannondale is a Catholic ministry of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, which provides holistic and therapeutic residential care for young women placed by the court. Sharon Shepherd was hired as a bookkeeper in October 2011. At the time of her firing in June 2013, Shepherd held the post of Bookkeeping Supervisor.
Sharon Shepherd, age 57, of Erie, Pennsylvania, alleges that several months after she began working at Gannondale that the organization started requiring her to attend community meetings four days a week. At those meetings, Shepherd and other staffers were required to state a "daily goal that was related to a 'commitment' to the 'sanctuary model,'" including a commitment to "growth and change". As a Jehovah's Witness, Shepherd claims that she believes in "predetermination", not "growth and change", and that requiring her to attend those meetings and participate in such violated her religious beliefs.
Shepherd alleges that she first told a Human Resources manager in November 2012 that the community meetings interfered with her religious beliefs. Shepherd alleges that the HR manager initially told her that she did not have to attend the meetings, but in May 2013, her supervisor then told Shepherd she would be fired if she did not attend the meetings. Shepherd claims the HR manager and her supervisor later asked for proof of how the sanctuary model violated her religious beliefs. Shepherd claims she gave them a one-page document explaining the contradiction between "growth and change" and her religious beliefs, but she was fired on June 13, 2013.
We are assuming that Shepherd filed a complaint with the EEOC, which thereafter decided not to prosecute her claim, but did issue a right-to-sue letter. Shepherd filed her own federal lawsuit against Gannondale in January 2014. Shepherd is asking the court to declare that Gannondale illegally discriminated against her on the basis of her religion. She wants reinstatement to her job, reimbursement for lost wages and benefits, plus damages -- including punitive damages sufficient to punish Gannondale's "illegal conduct", and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
"Crouch contends on appeal that the Southern Baptist Hospital of New Orleans, Louisiana, to which institution he was ordered to work by the Local Board, was an unsuitable place of employment, inasmuch as it is owned and controlled by a competing religious sect, and that the order of the Board to report to that institution was illegal because it attempted to force him to aid another religious group and deprived him of his right to free exercise of his chosen religion in violation of the First Amendment.
"The only evidence relied upon by appellant in support of his contention is the charter of Southern Baptist Hospital. The charter shows that the hospital is a wholly owned and controlled subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as stipulated by counsel, the Convention is composed of member Baptist churches and is a religious organization. Appellant argues that ownership, supervision and control by the Convention is tantamount to a conclusion that the hospital is a religious organization, and that employment therein of persons of his status aids a competing religion, prohibited by the Constitution ... ... ...
"The District Court found, and we agree, that a showing of mere ownership and control of the hospital by the Baptist Convention was insufficient to establish that the work performed by the hospital was of a religious nature. The Government proved that the work of the hospital, a non-profit corporation, is to care for the sick and afflicted. The record is devoid of any evidence that the institution is [religious] in its operation. There is nothing in the record from which it may be inferred that the hospital staff members, employees or patients must be of the Baptist faith, nor is there any showing that the Baptist religion is practiced in the hospital or that religious worship is imposed on its patients or employees."
"[Berrier's] First Amendment claim is based upon his allegation that working at the Methodist Home would be aiding another religious denomination, which would contravene the belief of his faith (Jehovah's Witness) that aiding any other religious denomination is to worship a false God. ..."The evidence established that the Methodist Home was a nonprofit organization having as its primary purpose and objective the care of the aged. Though preference for admission was accorded Western North Carolina members of the Methodist faith, the Home accepted aged persons of various denominations, and non-Methodist employees outnumbered Methodists. ... ..."Since care for the aged obviously contributes to the maintenance of the national public health, interest and welfare and since the Methodist Home provides care for the aged of various denominations, we reject Berrier's claim that the Home is not an appropriate institution in which he should be required to perform civilian work in lieu of induction. ..." Berrier's constitutional attack upon his work assignment closely parallels that considered by the court in UNITED STATES v. CROUCH wherein a Jehovah's Witness assigned to work at the Southern Baptist Hospital of New Orleans claimed that such assignment was in violation of the First Amendment guarantee of his religious freedom because it attempted to force him to aid another religious group which was directly contrary to the religious teachings and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. The evidence in [CROUCH] established that the hospital was owned and controlled by Baptist churches and that the hospital was a nonprofit institution engaged in the charitable activity of caring for the sick and afflicted. There was no evidence that patients or employees must be Baptists, that the Baptist religion was practiced in the hospital or that the Baptist faith was imposed upon either the patients or employees. ... the court held that the showing of ownership and control of the hospital by the Baptist Convention was insufficient to establish that the work performed by the hospital was of a religious nature and, therefore, the fact that the hospital was operated by a denomination of a faith different from that of the registrant did not constitute an invalid restraint on his free exercise of religion."As in Crouch, ... the evidence in the instant case showed that the Methodist Home accepts members of other denominations as patients and that employees are not restricted to the Methodist faith. As in Crouch, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Methodist faith is practiced at the hospital or in any manner imposed upon patients or employees of the Home. Thus, Berrier's claim that his First Amendment religious freedom rights would be violated by his assignment to work at the Methodist Home must fail."
"... defendant has attached to his brief a certified copy of the articles of incorporation of Bellin Memorial Hospital, which discloses that it is owned and operated by the Methodist Church. The articles disclose the manner in which the directors are to be elected, a majority of whom shall be members of that church. The purpose of the corporation is stated in the articles, 'To establish, conduct and maintain a hospital, School of Nursing, and other hospital schools and issue diplomas to such as shall have completed the course of study and training prescribed by each school, which said business is to be carried on within the State of Wisconsin and especially within the County of Brown in said state.'"... defendant argues that work in Bellin Memorial Hospital would be principally for the benefit of the members of the church or for increasing its membership. There was no proof that such would be the case and we think the asserted basis for such argument is little more than a figment of the imagination. It is a matter of common knowledge that the purpose of hospitals generally is the 'maintenance of the national health,' and they are engaged 'in carrying out a program for the improvement of the public health or welfare' of those whom they serve, and this irrespective of all other considerations. The burden of proof would be heavy upon one who asserts any exception to this general purpose. Moreover, it must not be overlooked that defendant's refusal to report for work was not because of the religious affiliation of Bellin Memorial Hospital. He refused to report to other hospitals which had no religious connections, and finally took the position that he would not report for civilian work under any circumstances.
"We are in accord with the decision of [CROUCH] based on a factual situation so similar to that here that the opinion reads as though it might have been written for this case. There, Crouch, a Jehovah's Witness, was convicted of refusing to comply with an order of the Board to report for work in the Southern Baptist Hospital of New Orleans. As in the instant case, he not only refused to comply with the order but unconditionally refused to perform any kind of civilian work under the Act. The main contention on appeal was that the hospital to which he was ordered to work was owned and controlled by a competing religious sect, and that the order of the Board to report to that institution was illegal because it attempted to force him to aid another religious group and deprived him of his right to the free exercise of his chosen religion. ... ... ...
"No case is cited which supports defendant's argument that the Board's order constitutes involuntary servitude contrary to the Thirteenth Amendment. His contention on this point is based upon the Board's order which requires him 'as a Jehovah's Witness, to work in a religiously controlled institution whose religion was not accepted by the appellant's religion.' As this court has done before, we reject this contention. ..."
"... Congress created an exemption for religious organizations, stating that Title VII shall not apply 'to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.' In other words, a 'religious' organization is permitted to discriminate on the basis of religion. ... The 'religious exemption' is clearly at issue because the Complaint alleges that Light of Life refused to hire Jackson because of his religion."
"... the Court concludes that Light of Life qualifies for the religious exemption as a matter of law: (1) Light of Life is a non-profit corporation; (2) Light of Life’s Articles of Incorporation contain a clear statement of religious purpose. Light of Life has also published Mission Statements, a Doctrinal Statement, a Statement of Faith and Core Values that are heavily laced with religious references; (3) Light of Life holds itself out to the public as a religious entity, apparently even including its telephone greeting; (4) there is no evidence of record to determine whether or not a specific church is intimately involved in day-to-day operations; (5) Light of Life receives an unspecified amount of financial support from churches. Light of Life’s Statement of Faith 'affirms and identifies' an affiliation with the ECFA, although the record does not explain whether the ECFA is a church. The Doctrinal Statement identifies with Protestant and Evangelical churches; and (6) Light of Life conducts two religious services each day."The evidence that Light of Life is structured and holds itself out as a religious organization is simply overwhelming. The corporate acts of creating and adopting a Statement of Faith and a Doctrinal Statement should be dispositive evidence that an entity is 'religious'. Moreover, the numerous explicit religious references in the Articles of Incorporation, Mission Statement and Core Values are independently dispositive. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what more an organization could reasonably do to proclaim its religious purpose."Plaintiff does not contest any of these facts, but instead contends that his specific job did not require participation in these religious activities. For the reasons set forth above, this is not the proper legal test. Even assuming, arguendo, that the facts contained in the newspaper article and EEOC Determination Letter submitted by Plaintiff were true, and giving Plaintiff every reasonable inference therefrom, Light of Life would still be entitled to summary judgment. Similarly, even if the discovery sought by Plaintiff were permitted2 and revealed that Light of Life had extensive real estate holdings, engaged in numerous business-related activities and received little or no church funding, the legal analysis would not change. As the Supreme Court and Third Circuit have instructed, secular activities will not destroy an organization’s religious character and the religious exemption applies to all of its employees. ... Accordingly, the Court concludes that there are no genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Defendant is a religious organization and Light of Life is entitled to the 'religious exemption' ... as a matter of law."There is an independent, alternative basis for the Court’s conclusion. Defendant contends that the newspaper article and EEOC Determination Letter submitted by Plaintiff do not create genuine issues of material fact, and thus cannot be used to defeat a motion for summary judgment. The Court agrees. A newspaper article is inadmissible hearsay and thus, cannot be considered in ruling on summary judgment. ... EEOC determination letters are admissible, but cannot defeat summary judgment. ... As explained above, the EEOC Determination Letter in this case applied the wrong legal standard. [FOOTNOTE: 'A review of the EEOC’s determination reveals that the investigator applied the wrong legal test. The Determination Letter considered whether participation in religious activities was a qualification for the specific job Jackson held, rather than applying the principle enunciated in Little and Curay-Cramer, i.e., that the religious exemption applies to all employees of religious organizations. The EEOC Determination Letter did not even reach the question of whether Light of Life is a 'religious' organization.] Plaintiff has not submitted any other evidence in opposition to the motion. Thus, in addition to the substantive reasons set forth above, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiff’s failure to introduce evidence sufficient to create any genuine issue of material fact."
The following "Position" posting was found on the website of a Baptist Church in El Dorado, Texas:
Marcus White -- Custodian
Marcus is an El Dorado native and 1994 graduate of EHS. Marcus is married to Adenia, and has two children - ages 18 and 19. He attends Kingdom Hall Church. His hobbies are fishing, hunting and spending time with family, and he is proud of his 1990 GT Mustang and 2000 Chevy Impala. Marcus joined the staff in 2007.
SOME JW EMPLOYEES MAY EVEN REFUSE TO ENTER
BUILDINGS OWNED OR OPERATED BY OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS
For decades, it was typical that Jehovah's Witnesses, who hold their "meetings" in "Kingdom Halls", would not enter a church, synagogue, cathedral, temple, or any other related building which was used for "false religious" purposes, or support thereof. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that they are the "only true religion" on planet earth, and that all other religions, including professing Christian religions, are unwitting dupes and worshippers of the Devil.
This also means that Jehovah's Witnesses would never attend any type of religious service performed by one of Satan's minions, even if such were held in a secular structure, such as a funeral home, banquet hall, or sports stadium. Given how JWs view "buildings", do I need to explain how Jehovah's Witnesses privately think and feel about their employers and co-workers who are active members of such "false religious organizations"? Suffice it to say that JWs believe that everyone but Jehovah's Witnesses will be exterminated when Jesus Christ returns the second time to fight the battle of Armageddon.
Over the years, the prohibition against entering "false religious" building has eroded, and some JWs will now attend funerals, weddings, etc. of relatives, whether such are held in religious or secular buildings. However, JWs who choose to attend such functions are warned to refrain from doing anything which would be considered "participating" in the religious portion of the event.
Thus, employers of Jehovah's Witness Employees should anticipate the possibility of problems if that employer's business products or services ever requires employees to enter "false religious" buildings. For example, potential problems at catering businesses are obvious. Not so obvious are contracting businesses, such as delivery services, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, heating and air, roofers, painters, etc., who only occasionally perform services on religious structures. At one time, JWs were strictly prohibited from performing work in "false religious" buildings, including support buildings, such as parsonages. However, the Watch Tower Society recently loosened this restriction, and made it a "conscience matter", pointing out that responding to an occasional emergency might be the more christian thing to do. Of course, the fact that over the past couple of decades more and more Jehovah's Witnesses have turned to independent contracting to avoid the problems with employers addressed in this website had nothing to do with this new Watchtower interpretation.
FAIRBANKS v. BOARD OF REVIEW was an Ohio 1997 unemployment compensation case which involved a Jehovah's Witness Employee who was awarded UC benefits after he quit his job because his job duties required him to attend religious services at churches and/or synagogues, which he found offensive as a Jehovah's Witness. No further details. I suspect this case probably has something to do with some other brief internet snippets that I have stumbled across. It seems that back in the 1980s-90s, that several Jehovah's Witnesses were working for either an Ohio state agency or a state contractor, or both, which provided various personal services to people who were homebound or institutionalized, and who were elderly, retarded, disabled, or otherwise unable to do certain things for themselves. These JW Employees' duties included taking people to their doctor's appointments, shopping, etc, but pertinently, even to religious services at churches and synagogues. Apparently, this only involved transporting some "patients" to their religious services, but some patients required the JW Employees to assist them into and out of the services, and some patients' incapacities even required the JW Employees to stay alongside them during the services. This last scenario may have been the problem in FAIRBANKS, because various JW Employees were apparently filing complaints even in the instances where they were only required to assist patients into and out of services.
Since posting the above, I found a similar case filed in Canada with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission in 2002. There, a Jehovah's Witness sought part-time employment in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. In the interview, the JW supposedly explained that they were a JW, and that their Watchtower religious beliefs would prevent them from performing certain duties. When Christmas time roled around, the JW Employee was asked to transport and supervise residents during a Christmas concert trip held at a local church. The JW initially refused, but gave in. Shortly thereafter, the JW Employee was asked to bake a birthday cake for one of the residents. This time the JW Employee stood their ground. An argument insued, and the JW resigned. After filing a formal complaint with the MHRC, the MHRC ruled in the JW's favor granting $4000 in backpay, and requiring agency management to attend training sessions on how to accomodate the religious beliefs of employees.
In 1988-89, a yet-to-be-identified female Jehovah's Witness in Osceola County, Florida, filed formal complaints and probably a lawsuit against the Osceola Children's Home and its adminsitration for alleged violation of her constitutional right to religious freedom. The former JW employee alleged that administrators had attempted to force her to accompany children to church while she was working as a "house parent" at the Children's Home. The former JW employee was disciplined and possibly terminated after she refused.
JW EMPLOYEES WORKING IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
The Watch Tower Society has generally discouraged Jehovah's Witnesses from working at any job that requires them to carry a gun or other weapon which the JW might be forced to use to kill or injure a fellow human. To help enforce this teaching, JWs who choose to violate this Watchtower "suggestion" are prohibited from having certain privileges, such as being an Elder (minister), Ministerial Servant (deacon), Pioneer (fulltime door knocker), etc. The July 15, 1983 issue of the WATCHTOWER magazine, stated, in part:
"During these 'last days,' many employees are expected to carry a firearm. Bank or security guards, watchmen and policemen may even be required to do so to hold employment. But what of the Christian, who is obligated to 'provide for those who are his own'? ... His Bible-trained viewpoint would be different from that of worldly persons, who feel free to carry such weapons and to use them as they see fit in any dangerous situation that may arise. ... He will want to avoid bloodguilt, having in mind Jehovah's viewpoint on the sanctity of blood. ... A mature Christian should try to find unarmed employment. Some Witnesses by talking with their employer have been successful in changing to a job that does not require carrying a weapon. As the world becomes increasingly violent we can no longer regard as exemplary a brother who continues in armed employment. He could be allowed six months to make a change. If he does not make a change, he would not be in a position to hold special privileges of service and responsibility in the congregation."
BERNARD WESTBROOK v. NORTH CAROLINA A&T STATE UNIVERSITY is an ongoing 2008-13 North Carolina federal court case. A Greensboro, North Carolina Jehovah's Witness Elder, named Bernard L. Westbrook, age 62, is suing his former University employer for religious discrimination after Westbrook was terminated for his refusal to carry a firearm during the course of his employment as a campus security and parking officer. Westbrook was initially hired in 1994 as a parking officer, but by 2004-5, Westbrook was working as a HR professional in the University's HR department. For unknown reasons, Westbrook was reassigned back to the Police and Public Safety Department in 2006. Westbrook then told his supervisors that his WatchTower religion prevented him from carrying a weapon. In 2008, the Police and Public Safety Department ordered Westbrook to attend weapons training, and threatened termination if he refused. Westbrook attended the training, but refused to accept or use a weapon. Westbrook further contends that his requests for a transfer or exemption were denied up to the point of his termination. Bernard Westbrook thereafter filed a complaint with the EEOC, and received a right-to-sue letter. Westbrook filed this lawsuit for back pay and reinstatement. Westbrook is representing himself, and his hand-written complaint also includes possibly acceptable allegations of other aspects of religious discrimination committed by NC A&T, which may be considered by the USDC, or by the USCA on appeal. This lawsuit apparently has survived the summary judgement stage.
An African-American Jehovah's Witness, who was employed as a Connecticut State Trooper, named Kenneth Hall, age 57, was critically injured, on Sept. 2, 2010, after his police cruiser was rear-ended on I-95, while Hall was sitting inside his cruiser writing a traffic ticket for a tractor-trailer that he had pulled over. While nearly all media reports either implied or explicitly stated that Trooper Ken Hall had been killed at the scene of the accident, or explicitly stated that Hall was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital, one lone media report truthfully reported that, "Hall was rushed to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, [Massachusetts], where he later died." The truthful media report further related that Hall's family was rushed to the hospital -- indicating that Hall lived for some time after arriving at the hospital. Such facts are significant only to those sufficiently familiar with the beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses to immediately suspect that Trooper Kenny Hall was denied life-saving blood transfusions -- either at his own direction, or that or his loving family members. Hall's obituary stated that Hall was a member of one of the Hartford, Connecticut Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, and that he "participated in mission work all over the Hartford area". Hall's elaborate funeral was conducted at the Connecticut State Armory, and included full "military honors".
ALLEN-CURRY v. TEXAS DEPT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE was a 2002 Texas court case which awarded $544,000.00 to a Riverside, Texas, Jehovah's Witness named Vicki Allen-Curry. Allen-Curry's supervisor, Warden Richard Watkins, was in the habit of opening and closing monthly staff meetings with prayer. Allen-Curry refused to be present during such prayers. When she was suspended for five days and put on probation due to such refusal, Allen-Curry retired prematurely in 1998, after working for TDCJ for 18 years. In June 2002, a Texas jury decided that Allen-Curry's resignation was "forced", and awarded her $500.000.00 for wrongful termination and back pay, plus $44,000 in attorney fees.
FIRPO CARR v. REDONDO BEACH POLICE DEPT ET AL was a 2000-1 California federal "civil rights" court decision. On June 30, 2000, an African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Firpo W. Carr, then 46, who reportedly was a civilian employee of the Los Angeles Police Department, was stopped while driving his automobile in a Redondo Beach shopping mall parking lot by a Redondo Beach Police officer, who was investigating a credit card fraud that had just been committed in one of the mall's retail stores. Firpo Carr's auto was the same color as was the suspect's auto. In December 2000, Firpo W. Carr filed a $5,000,000.00 federal lawsuit against that police officer, the Chief of Police, and the City of Redondo Beach, in which Carr alleged that the Redondo Beach Police Department engaged in "racial discriminatory acts", including "racial profiling". Firpo Carr reportedly also sought out much public attention to his case. In press conferences, community meetings, and talk radio programs, Carr said the motivation for the stop was "DWB" ("Driving while Black"), and was not based on any reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. In June 2001, the USDC dismissed the Chief of Police and the City of Redondo Beach from the lawsuit. In July 2001, the USDC dismissed the individual police officer, thereby ending the case. The judge labeled Carr's allegations as "unfounded".
CARR v. REDONDO BEACH POLICE DEPT ET AL was a 2008 California federal appellate court decision. Given that this USCA opinion is dated April 2008, it appears that Firpo W. Carr filed this second "losing" federal lawsuit against the City of Redondo Beach, the Chief of Police, and one or more individual police officers, sometime in 2007, or 2006. This was an appeal by Firpo Carr after the USDC summarily dismissed his lawsuit. The USCA affirmed the dismissal. Per this opinion, which does not date the incident, it appears tha Carr was again stopped by Redondo Beach Police officers -- this time in a residential neighborhood -- who were investigating a female citizen's report that someone was burglarizing the home of a neighbor. One can't help but wonder whether at the time Carr was doing door-to-door JW recruiting? The USCA stated, in part:
"... Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Carr, we conclude that there is no genuine issue of material fact with respect to any of Carr’s claims. ... The stop did not violate the Fourth Amendment because it was based on reasonable suspicion supported by the articulable facts provided by a citizen who reported that she thought that a man matching Carr’s description was burglarizing her neighbor. ... Nor was the length of the stop, approximately 20-25 minutes, constitutionally infirm, as it was limited to the time necessary to investigate the report and to determine that no crime had been committed.
"Given the nature of the crime suspected, and the report from the neighbor of large, full pockets, it was reasonable for one officer to draw his gun (which he did not point at Carr) and for another to conduct a pat down search of Carr’s person to determine if he had a weapon. ... The amount of force used to carry out the pat down was objectively reasonable. ...
"There is also no genuine issue of material fact with respect to Carr’s claim under Monell ... (1978), because there was no constitutional violation. Carr’s state law tort claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, and false imprisonment fail for the same reason. Though Carr turned out to be wholly innocent of wrongdoing, there is no evidence of any unconstitutional motive or conduct by the police, just a reasonable investigation of the neighbor’s call."
For those readers, Jehovah's Witnesses or otherwise, who do not recognize the name Firpo W. Carr, Carr is probably the best-known Jehovah's Witness in the state of California. Carr has authored a number of books on topics related to the JWs, and his photo has even appeared in the WATCHTOWER magazine. Carr has also been labeled in media reports as "the spiritual advisor" of various members of the Michael Jackson family.
KELLY v. MUNICIPAL COURTS OF MARION COUNTY was a 1996 Indiana federal lawsuit involving an African-American Jehovah's Witness named David Kelly. Kelly worked as a Bailiff in the Indianapolis courtroom of Judge Wendell Mayer. Mayer discharged Kelly, ostensibly for poor job performance as well as for inappropriate conduct, including proselytizing and reading the Bible in public areas of the courthouse. In response, Kelly brought suit, claiming that he was harassed and ultimately fired due to his race, religious beliefs, and refusal to contribute to and work for the Republican Party. After dismissing some of Kelly's claims as barred by the Eleventh Amendment and granting summary judgment against Kelly on most of the others, the district court conducted a jury trial on Kelly's claim that he was fired due to his political beliefs. The district court granted Mayer's motion for judgment as a matter of law. The appellate court affirmed.
This decision contains some info which all employers should find highly informative: When Mayer initially interviewed Kelly in August 1989, he informed Mayer that he had once studied with the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose religious doctrine prohibited members from voting or participating in the political system. However, Kelly stated that he wasn't sure about the Jehovah's Witnesses and intended on remaining a Republican at that time. By January 1990, Kelly informed the Chief Bailiff that he was no longer going to contribute 2 percent of his salary to the Republican Party, because to do so would violate the religious dictates of the Jehovah's Witnesses. In April-May 1990, Kelly further informed the Chief Bailiff that, in keeping with his religious beliefs, he did not intend to work at the polls for the Republican Party during the May primary. Kelly kept a Bible on his desk, which was located in an area of the office that was open to the public, and read such in the public reception area during slow periods. He also read the Bible to prisoners while they were waiting in the holding cells. Mayer instructed Kelly to refrain from reading the Bible or proselytizing in public areas because he believed that such activities could suggest that the court was promoting religion and would thus be a violation of the Judicial Code of Ethics, to which Mayer and his staff were bound.
MINER v. CITY OF GLENS FALLS was a 1992 New York federal case involving a Jehovah's Witness named Donald Miner. Donald Miner was employed by the Glens Falls Police Department in 1966. In 1979, Miner converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses. ***In 1983, Miner formed the conviction that he could not work in any capacity that might require him to take the life of another human being or to carry or use a firearm. Miner was reassigned to a managerial position where he was not required to carry or use a weapon.*** In December 1985, the Board Of Public Safety passed a resolution requiring that all police personnel carry firearms at all times while on duty. At no time, however, did Chief Duggan order Miner to carry a firearm. After Resolution 50 was adopted, Duggan permitted Miner to remain with the police force through June of 1986 to enable him to complete 20 years of service and thereby increase his pension. However, Miner was eventually fired in August 1986 due to his refusal to carry a weapon. Miner promptly filed an unemployment insurance claim. Benefits were granted upon a finding by the New York State Department of Labor that he was involuntarily discharged under non-disqualifying circumstances. Miner also commenced an action in New York State Supreme Court, which he subsequently discontinued in order to pursue a federal lawsuit. The federal Appeals court awarded Miner roughly $250,000.00.
Described by his widow, Francine Hinton Toney, as being "strait-laced" during his teen years growing up in Baltimore, Sean Hinton was reared as a Jehovah's Witness. By 1992, then 22 year-old Sean Hinton sought employment as a law enforcement officer with the Baltimore Police Department, in order to support his wife, two infant sons, and a 5 year-old (step?) daughter. By mid-October 1992, all seemed to be going well. Hinton had nearly completed work at the academy, and was undergoing field training. Graduation and becoming a sworn officer were only a few short weeks away. However, on Friday night, October 24, 1992, Sean Hinton had an auto accident in downtown Baltimore, and was arrested and jailed for DUI. Hinton spent most of that Saturday getting out of jail, and getting his auto out of impoundment. Later that same Saturday afternoon, at 5:40 PM, the troubled Sean Hinton penned a short note to his wife, which stated in part:
"Francine you have dealt with me 4 years, and you never seemed to believe I really loved you -- I do love you. You have Jehovah on your side. I have no one. I need Jehovah but I just can't seem to reach him. So I guess I will see someone. Please take care of our children for me."
Shortly thereafter, Sean Hinton left the housing project apartment which he, his wife, and their children shared with Sean's mother, Jean Hinton. Hinton walked out of the project, rather than driving his auto. At 6:48 PM, Hinton telephoned home from Amtrack's Penn Station to say that he would be home shortly. However, when he didn't return by midnight, his mother and wife reported him missing. Hinton did not return home that weekend, nor to his job on Monday.
On Tuesday, November 3, 1992, Sean Hinton's partially decomposed corpse was found floating in NYC harbor. His wrists were tied together using the drawstrings from the jacket he was wearing. His wallet contained a small amount of cash, and multiple pieces of ID. The autopsy indicated that Hinton had died from drowning several days previous. The NYC medical examiner eventually ruled Hinton's death to be a suicide, but issued the death certificate without a cause of death listed. Curiously, the Baltimore Police Department gave the unsworn Hinton a police funeral and burial, paid for all the expenses, and even reportedly paid out Hinton's insurance benefits to his family, despite the fact that due to the DUI, and failing to return to work, Hinton reportedly had been officially recommended for termination on or about October 28/29, 1992.
Because of all those uncertainties, and others too numerous to mention in this summary, Francine Hinton, Jean Hinton, and other family members refused to believe that Hinton had committed suicide, but rather believed that he had been murdered by corrupt members of the Baltimore Police Department. On Tuesday, October 21, 1992, during Hinton's field training, Hinton and two regular drug-enforcement officers busted an alleged drug dealer. That alleged drug dealer later filed a formal complaint in which he accused the three officers of burglarizing drugs and cash from his home while he was in jail. Hinton's family believe that he was murdered to keep him from testifying in the inquiry that later cleared the two drug-enforcement officers.
MARYLAND v. HINTON. The 1992 case of Sean Hinton was brought back to the public's attention in June 2006, when Hinton's by-then 15 year-old son, Ronald Hinton, was arrested for the rape and murder of the 4 year-old female cousin that he was babysitting. The Hinton family resurrected the case in efforts to excuse why Ronald Hinton had essentially confessed to committing the crime to police interrogators. Although Francine Toney believed and still believes that her son was innocent, in May 2008, a Baltimore jury convicted Ronald Hinton of the rape and murder. Hinton was sentenced to life plus 25 years in prison.
In December 1991, Leslie Roark, a Deputy Sheriff, of Moniteau County, Missouri, was shot and killed while answering a domestic dispute call. Roark's status as a JW is not known, but his funeral talk was delivered by JW Elder Don Schreimann, of the California, Missouri Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.
In May 1988, a 37 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named Cpl. Howard S. Levitt, who was a veteran Philadelphia area police officer, committed suicide inside his assigned police van, which was sitting in a district headquarters' parking lot. Steve Levitt first doused the inside of the van with gasoline, ignited such, and then shot himself in the head with his service pistol. Another officer who was also arriving for the start of the AM shift pulled Levitt from the burning van, but Levitt was dead from the gunshot.
In February 1986, U.S. Customs Patrol Officer Glenn R. Miles, 42, whose son told reporters that Miles was a "very religious" Jehovah's Witness, was murdered along the Mexican border by Mexican drug smugglers while on duty on the Arizona Indian Reservation on which he lived and to which he had been assigned since joining the U.S. Customs Service in 1976. Officer Miles received all the honors typically received by law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, including having a federal law enforcement facility in Florida named after him.
However, two of the Mexican Nationals eventually arrested for the murder alleged that Glenn Miles had been accepting bribes from their gang, and that "part" of the reason that Miles had been killed was because he had demanded even larger bribes. Such allegations are common, and there is no way to confirm nor disprove such. However, the Customs agency's claim that Miles was tracked down and assassinated by the smugglers is just as unbelievable when compared with some of the scattered details available on the web.
Officer Miles not only was an experienced Customs agent, but he had beeen employed by the tribal police force on the same reservation prior to joining the Customs agency. Miles had recently remarried after going through a divorce, and may have possibly conquered a drinking problem. On the night in question, Miles was patroling alone, but was on duty with two other Customs officers who were also residents of the reservation, when he radioed in that he had spotted three possible smugglers. The two other officers supposedly found his dead body only 30 minutes later. Miles own sidearm was missing. Miles reportedly had been shot twice. The apparent first shot went through his [apparently dominant] hand, then through his chest, and out through his back. A second shot through the back of his head was probably fired thereafter. These circumstances raise the question why someone with Miles vast experience would have approached a group of smugglers alone, lightly armed, and apparently without exercising extreme caution.
WADE HAMPTON v. PASCO COUNTY SHERIFF was a 1996-8 Florida federal lawsuit involving an African-American Jehovah's Witness named Wade Hampton Jr. Wade Hampton, age 43, had worked in the Pasco County corrections system for 16 years in administrative positions which apparently had not require him to carry a firearm. Then, in 1995, Hampton accepted an offer of a promotion to a position transporting prisoners. When Hampton thereafter disclosed that his religious beliefs prohibited him from carrying a firearm, or otherwise using deadly force, Wade Hampton was demoted to the then only available position -- a clerical position at one-half the pay rate. Wade Hampton thereafter filed a complaint with the EEOC, and then later filed this federal religious discrimination lawsuit. After two days of testimony, the USDC issued a directed verdict in favor of the Employer.
The September 1983 issue of EBONY magazine featured a picture of the Chief-Of-Police of Opa-Locka, Florida, on its cover, and in the article "Man of God and Gun", the Chief's career and accomplishments in law enforcement were praised. The article focused on the fact that the Chief had been licensed as an AME Minister in 1980, plus the article noted how the two professions meshed to enable the Chief to further help the community.
Also mentioned in the EBONY article was one of the department's three commanders, Cmt. Dorna Love, who was Florida's only female African-American to hold the position of Patrol Commander. Dorna Love started working for the department around 1975, and she also had been the department's first female detective. However, Dorna Love resigned from her law enforcement career in November 1984, at the age of 32. Why? Because Dorna Love was a Jehovah's Witness, and the WatchTower Society had recently tightened its teachings regarding members who were employed on positions that required them to carry a weapon. Ironically, the WatchTower Society, which prohibits females from holding any position of authority in the organization, and "supposedly" prohibits females from "teaching" males, directed its updated rules toward males in that those who continued in such employment were prohibited from holding positions of authority. Maybe Dorna Love should have thought her decision over much more slowly and carefully.
Interestingly, in November 1993, an African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Harvey Davis, was appointed to what had historically been considered one of the most "highly political" appointments in the City of Springfield, Illinois -- the CHIEF OF POLICE. The appointment was heralded in the November 15, 1993, issue of JET magazine. Harvey Davis served as Police Chief until his retirement in May 1995. In June 2003, the Illinois Times referred to the administration of Harvey Davis as "scandal-plagued" due to the JW being "blamed for the disappearance of money, drugs and guns from SPD's evidence room". Rickey B. Davis, brother of Harvey Davis, who was a patrolman in 1993, was promoted to "Sergeant" in 1994. His affiliation with the JWs, if any, is unknown. His racial discrimination lawsuit against the Springfield Police Department provides additional info.
In December 2010, the main newspaper in the African country of Swaziland reported that a Jehovah's Witness employed in the Communications Department of a local Police Department was surprised when he exited Sunday services at his local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Waiting on services to end were officers from the Government Vehicle Anti-Abuse Unit. The JW Employee was charged with "using a government vehicle for any purpose other than that authorised". The Chief of the Government Vehicle Anti-Abuse Unit told reporters: "I believe it is a big sin to steal a government car and use it to go to a place of worship."
Note this obituary published in June 2005: "Xxxxxx ... was a life-long resident of the area. He was of the Jehovah's Witness faith. Xxxxx was a deputy for the Wwww County Sheriffs Dept. ... Funeral services were held ... Rrr Sssssss officiating. (Rrr Sssssss just so happens to be a prominent representative of the Watch Tower Society. He would not be permitted to officiate at this funeral unless this JW Deputy Sheriff was "in good standing".)
Note this obituary published in October 2006: "Xxxxxx ... was a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall, ... . She loved guns and received her concealed weapons permit last year. ... A memorial service will be held ... with Xxxx Xxxx from the Hamilton Kingdom Hall officiating."
Note this obituary published in February 2007: "Funeral services for Agustin Piedra, Jr., 23, of Buffalo, Texas, ... worked as a prison guard for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He was a member of Jehovah Witness."
This Connecticut Post article features a Jehovah's Witness named Laura Azevedo, who works as a detention officer for the Bridgeport, Connecticut Police Dept. The article actually brags how the various skills developed as a JW makes Laura Azevedo a superior "cop", as noted by the title of the article: "Multilingual cop serves community well".
These "exceptions to the rule" demonstrate that Employers should keep two things in mind. Although JWs are strongly encouraged to not work in law enforcement, a few isolated incidents of Jehovah's Witnesses doing just that may exist. In ruling about JW beliefs in such cases, most courts will look at the individual's interpretations of denominational beliefs, not the denomination's, to determine whether a belief or practice is sincere.
LAWSON v. STATE OF WASHINGTON is a recent 2002 federal lawsuit filed by a Jehovah's Witness named Gregory Lawson. Although this decision contains a lengthy discussion, it does not answer the most obvious questions: Why in the world would a Jehovah's Witness apply to enter a State Trooper Training Academy in the first place? Would Lawson have been willing to carry a firearm after he graduated?
Lawson had twice applied to the Academy, and not once in the detailed personal questioniare did he ever mention having personal briefs that might conflict with performing the duties of a state trooper, much less conflict with duties and obligations of the training program. During his first two days at the Academy, Lawson saluted the American Flag during the twice daily flag raising and lowering ceremonies without objection. However, during the second evening, Lawson approached his advisor and stated that he was being forced to resign because of a conflict between his personal religious beliefs and the requirements of the Academy. Specifically, Lawson stated that he could not salute the flag, nor could he swear the Oath required of state troopers, despite having stated that he could do so in his two previous applications. Per the facts summarized in the opinion, the Academy personnel made very little effort to discourage Lawson's quitting, and made practically no efforts at "accomodation". After leaving the program, Lawson filed religious discrimination charges with the state's Human Rights Commission and the EEOC. Thereafter, Lawson filed this federal lawsuit. The district court summarily dismissed Lawson's case and this appellate court affirmed.
WILSON v. GEORGETOWN COUNTY was a 1990-4 South Carolina court case. In September 1990, a Jehovah's Witness, named David Wilson Jr., 41, was called for jury duty in Georgetown County. During voir dire, Wilson informed the presiding judge that due to his religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness, he could not sit on a jury and sit in judgment of others. The trial judge declined to excuse Wilson, but informed Wilson that he would find alternate work for Wilson to do. Subsequently, the trial judge met privately with Wilson. The trial judge asked Wilson if he would be willing to serve in some other capacity. Wilson responded affirmatively. The following morning, Wilson reported to the Clerk of Court to begin his alternate service which consisted of janitorial work. While washing the outside court windows, Wilson slipped and fell from a ladder. As a result, he suffered an injury to his back. Wilson filed a claim with the Workers' Compensation Commission for temporary total benefits. Georgetown County denied coverage because Wilson was not considered an employee, since he was serving as a juror at the time of the accident. The single commissioner found that the Commission had jurisdiction to hear the matter and Wilson was a County employee performing alternate service. The Full Commission reversed the single commissioner, ruling that the Commission lacked jurisdiction. The circuit court reversed the Full Commission and ruled that Wilson was an employee and therefore the Commission had jurisdiction. On appeal, the Supreme Court of South Carolina ruled in Wilson's favor.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND THE FIRE DEPARTMENT
My research has turned up multiple media articles reporting on many Jehovah's Witnesses who work for Fire Departments across the United States. In fact, over the past 3-4 or so years, there have been 3 JWs who died while fighting fires, or while training to do so. Given the small percentage of JWs in the overall population, deaths of 3 JWs would seem to indicate that a disproportionately large number of Jehovah's Witnesses are seeking employment as firemen.This is almost logical. Since the potential quality and quantity of conflicts for Jehovah's Witnesses are simply too great in the military and law enforcement occupations, seeking a career as a fireman would seem to be the next best alternative for individuals "cut from that kind of cloth".
ANDERSON v. CITY OF TAYLOR was a 2005-7 Michigan federal court case which included a Jehovah's Witness firefighter, named Shannon Threlkeld, amongst the Plaintiff city firefighters who sued their employer city government, because a newly instituted wellness program included a mandatory "pin prick" blood draw for the purposes of a blood lipids test. The firefighters claimed that the mandatory "pin prick" blood draw violated their constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Michigan union-friendly federal court agreed. For purposes of this website, we are only interested in the Jehovah's Witness firefighter's claim that the mandatory "pin prick" blood draw violated his religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness. From the limited info provided by one USDC opinion, it appears that the City hired expert witness Joel Elliot to refute the testimony of Shannon Threlkeld.
Non-JW readers should be aware that the Watchtower Society's prohibition against donating blood and accepting blood transfusions has NEVER included a prohibition against blood draws intended for medical testing. However, that has not stopped certain individuals from attempting to use the non-JW public's ignorance about WatchTower Doctrine to avoid being the subject of a mandatory blood draw. There are multiple instances on record of individuals arrested for DUI or DWI who have claimed to be Jehovah's Witnesses, and then refused blood testing due to their alleged religious beliefs. Other recurring scenarios include state and federal prisoners attempting to avoid DNA, drug, and other type testings. Interested persons should know that local Jehovah's Witness Elders have been willing to testify in court as experts to dispute any such claim. One or more federal courts have rejected deviating personal religious belief based off the actual Watchtower teaching as a reason to avoid certain mandatory testing.
ARDRA YOUNG v. DETROIT FIRE DEPT ET AL and MICHIGAN v. ARDRA YOUNG were two 1996-2000 Michigan court cases. An African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Ardra Young, was a City of Detroit firefighter, who alleged that the Detroit Fire Department and one or more of his white supervisors had discriminated against him because of his race. The outcome of Ardra Young's employment discrimination lawsuit is unknown, because, before it could be settled or litigated, Ardra Young murdered his wife and teenage son.
In February 1997, Ardra Young arranged a late night meeting with his estranged JW Wife and JW Son at a Detroit municipal park. Young shot both his wife and his son in the back of their heads, and then fled to the home of his girlfriend in Illinois. Young returned to Detroit the next day, and without even asking to see his son, who was still alive on life-support, Young ordered doctors at Grace Hospital to turn off the life-support systems -- supposedly due to his WatchTower beliefs. After Young's alibi did not stand up to scrutiny, Young eventually confessed to police. Despite such, Young pled "not guilty" at trial. Young's defense team put on a vigorous defense. However, Young was found guilty, and sentenced to concurrent life terms. Young's defense team vigorously pursued appeals, possibly due to Young's pending employment discrimination lawsuit and the large settlement or judgment that Young's attorneys were anticipating from such. Amusingly, Young's attorneys unsuccessfully requested a new trial based on "newly discovered evidence", which included a letter which had been mailed to the Detroit Fire Department, which had been signed, "White Fire Fighters Association", which claimed that they actually had killed Young's wife and son -- not Ardra Young. Between 2000 and 2005, Ardra Young started filing his own habeas corpus actions in federal court. All have been denied thus far.
On January 2, 2004, a Jehovah's Witness, named Judy Strege, 54, who was employed at the Gilbert Arizona Fire Department as a receptionist, sent an email to Chandler Arizona Mayor Boyd Dunn from her town office and containing her town phone number. It read, in part, "I appreciate your taking time to listen to me and take the Awake and Watchtower magazines from me. ... Please feel free to contact me if you would like questions answered about Jehovah's Witnesses, their ministry in the community or their beliefs." Mayor Dunn said he took no offense, but the religious e-mail he got from Judy Strege violated the City of Gilbert's email policy, which says the town’s system should be used only “to facilitate official business ... and is not a private communication medium.” Apparently, Strege, who was a Chandler resident, had been out "witnessing" on New Years Day, and had approached Mayor Dunn with a solicitation for him to accept from her copies of the WatchTower and Awake magazines while the Mayor was doing a television interview in a parking lot (presumably outside City Hall). Gilbert Personnel Director Ann Moeding-Evans declined to publicly discuss the email, but stating, "It is a sensitive issue".
During the year 2000, the Florida news media repeatedly reported on the saga of a Jehovah's Witness Firefighter, named Barac Wimberly, who was eventually fired from the Pinellas Park Fire Department due to alleged poor job performance. Wimberly filed a religious discrimination claim with EEOC prior to his dismissal, but I don't know whether such was ever followed by a lawsuit in either state or federal court after Wimberly's termination. The charges and counter-charges are numerous, so I would recommend reading all the linked newspaper articles.
Some of the Department's allegations included: In 1999, Wimberly received a written reprimand for sleeping through a fire alarm, because Wimberly was wearing earplugs to drown out fellow firefighters' snoring. Soon after, he was reprimanded in writing and suspended for half of a 24-hour shift for leaving medical waste, such as needles and bandages, a blood pressure cuff, and other equipment, in someone's home after a medical call. Not long after, he slept through another alarm. Fire officials gave him a three-day suspension without pay that Wimberly appealed and had two days' pay restored. There are many more negatives in the linked newspaper articles.
Wimberly's charges of religious discrimination included: (1.) Co-workers often asked why Wimberly didn't celebrate holidays, such as Christmas. One acting supervisor allegedly asked Wimberly why he accepted a Christmas bonus if he didn't celebrate the holiday. (2.) Co-workers had joked about Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on doors -- calling them Saturday morning streetwalkers. (3.)After arguing with one firefighter/paramedic about his religion, the man asked Wimberly why Jehovah's Witnesses were coming to his door. He also told Wimberly that he disagreed with Jehovah's Witness' interpretation of the Bible. Shortly after, that co-worker allegedly began filing complaints against him that could not be substantiated. (4.) When Wimberly refused to take the Union Oath, as written, he was accused of elevating myself above everyone else, and attempting to get the oath changed. (5.) He declined to help decorate the fire truck during the winter holidays because of his religious beliefs. An acting supervisor "accused me of using my religion to get out of job duties. He told me to leave my religion at home." (6.) "I was written up for not being a team player, in part because I did not participate in the holiday activities. (7.) Wimberly concluded, "I believe if I were not a Jehovah's Witness, I would not be subjected to derogatory comments about my religion. I also believe that I am being harassed and subjected to disciplinary action because of my religious beliefs."
In response to Wimberly's charges against the Department, the Fire Chief pointed out that the Department currently already had two Jehovah's Witnesses employed, and both of those JWs held supervisory positions. In fact, the Chief pointed out that at the time that Wimberly was hired, Wimberly was the #1 applicant. All indicators had pointed to Wimberly being a rising star in the Department. However, the exact opposite occurred.
Even Wimberly acknowledged that his problems began soon after he was hired. Wimberly claimed that he was pressured into joining the Union, but Wimberly refused to join the Union because union activities would mean he would have to give up other "off-duty pursuits" -- i.e., door-to-door JW recruiting, etc. Thus, right off the bat, Wimberly fowled up the Department's 100%union participation, which made Wimberly an unpopular character.
After alleged repeated harassment and ridicule, Wimberly decided to join the Union in hopes that that would end his problems. Instead, joining the Union exacerbated Wimberly's problems. Why? Because Wimberely refused to take the Union Oath as it was written because of his WatchTower beliefs. Wimberly refused to swear his "allegiance" to the Union. So, Wimberly asked for and received permission to swear to an "altered version" of the Union's Oath. That simply Po'ed Wimberly's co-workers that much more, and they essentially had had all of the new recruit that they wanted. The following two years appeared to evidence that fact.
HATCHER v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA was a 1996?-2001? Pennsylvania worker's compensation case. In September 1998, a 46 year-old Philadelphia paramedic, named Marty Hatcher, died from liver disease. Hatcher claimed that his liver disease had been contracted on-the-job, and he pursued worker's comp benefits to which he believed that he was entitled. After his death, Geneva Hatcher continued to pursue worker's comp benefits. She claimed that her husband had died of liver failure attributed to Hepatitis C. The City claimed that drinking, not Hepatitis C, caused Hatcher's cirrhosis. A judge ruled partially in Hatcher's favor, finding that the disease was job-related, but agreeing with the City that there was some question about what led to the cirrhosis. Geneva Hatcher further claimed that Marty Hatcher was a devout Jehovah's Witness, who was not a drinker. [Hatcher may not have been a drinker, but I've known numerous "devout JWs" who drank like a fish.] As of 2000, Geneva Hatcher was continuing to pursue additional benefits. Outcome unknown.
ROBERT E. SHELTON v. VILLAGE OF EVENDALE OHIO was a 1992-3 Ohio court case in which an African-American Jehovah's Witness Firefighter named Robert Shelton was fired from the Evendale Fire Department in June 1992, and thereafter filed this lawsuit against the Village and its Fire Chief. Bob Shelton alleged religious discrimination, racial discrimination, and disability discrimination. Shelton also accused the Fire Chief of giving him a poor job performance evaluation to justify his firing. Outcome unknown.
In 1983, Fire Captain John Hall, of Watertown, New York, was selected to receive the American Legion's "Firefighter of the Year" award for having saved the life of a female during a fire. The award was pulled when Hall refused to participate in a parade that was part of the ceremony. Specifics are unknown, but I suspect that the award ceremony was held on one of the holidays. Fire Captain John Hall gave as an excuse that his Jehovah's Witness beliefs would not permit him to ride on a fire truck in a parade. The American Legion said: Fine. No parade. No award!
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