You know how some atheists cross out “In God We Trust” on the back of paper money? It’s petty, perhaps, but they’re trying to make a point about church/state separation. But what if they made the argument that they couldn’t use the money because the phrase violated their religious beliefs?
You’d point, laugh, roll your eyes, and tell them to get over it.
That’s the image that went through my mind when I heard about Cynthia Ambrose. The 51-year-old is a devout Roman Catholic who flipped out in the spring of 2011 when the owners of the medical practice she worked at asked all employees to wear name badges that also listed the office rules, known as “Our 10 Commandments,” on the back.
Ambrose said she would wear the badge without that particular title — because there’s only one *true* set of Ten Commandments, of course… — but her bosses gave her a disciplinary notice for “Failure to Comply with new policy and State Law in an unprofessional fashion.” Less than two months later, she was fired for “rescheduling some patients” improperly.
Now, she’s sued her employers claiming they denied her a “reasonable religious accommodation” and fired her in response to her complaining about it.
What the hell…?
Okay, so we don’t know how she reacted to the Ten Commandments thing. Maybe her reaction was completely over the top. Maybe she was just a bad employee and her bosses were looking for any reason to fire her and saw this as an opening. Either way, you would think a reasonable employer would have just made her a different name badge and moved on to more pressing issues…But no, they’re fighting this lawsuit. In fact, they asked a judge to throw it out because it was so frivolous.
On Thursday, though, a District Court judge refused their wish, ruling that the lawsuit could proceed:
Under the very limited inquiry that courts can make into the religious nature of belief, the Court finds — for the reasons set forth below — that Plaintiff’s revised complaint plausibly alleges that being forced to wear Defendants’ ten commandments violated a sincerely held belief that is religious within Plaintiff’s own scheme of things.
… which is a polite way of saying, “We all know she’s crazy, but she’s still technically allowed to sue you for violating her religious beliefs.”
Even though the employers were only referring to the Ten Commandments in a loose, it’s-just-a-figure-of-speech sort of way, they offended Ambrose enough that this is now a legitimate legal issue.
I don’t know whether I’m more upset at Ambrose for getting worked up over nothing or her employers for not just making the easy accommodation. If there was a way to punish both of them, I’m all for it.
(Thanks to Brian for the link!)