Kansas Officials Say They Didn’t Fire Staffer for Not Going to Church September 13, 2015

Kansas Officials Say They Didn’t Fire Staffer for Not Going to Church

Last month, Courtney Canfield, a former staffer at the office of the Kansas Secretary of State, said in a lawsuit that she was illegally fired by Assistant Secretary Eric K. Rucker (below) for not attending church enough.

The problems began in February of 2013, when Canfield was invited to a church service by a staffer working for Rucker. That happened multiple times but she never went. (Canfield was a Methodist, but not particularly religious.)

Other than that, the only “trouble” Canfield caused was when she used an office phone to call her physician for a personal matter. Hardly a big deal.

But that November, Rucker stopped by the house of Canfield’s grandmother Margie, who worked for the Kansas Republican Party. Even though Margie didn’t work directly with Canfield, Rucker said Margie needed to fire her granddaughter:

Mr. Rucker repeatedly and emphatically indicated a basis for her termination as the fact that, “She just doesn’t go to church.”

When Margie wouldn’t do it, Rucker did.

On November 18, 2013, Plaintiff was informed by Mr. Rucker that her employment was terminated and that she should contact Human Resources to assist her in filing for unemployment insurance benefits.

Canfield’s wrongful termination lawsuit, which you can read here, asked for $75,000 for “lost past and future wages and benefits, cost of living increases, mental and emotional distress and anguish, embarrassment, inconvenience and humiliation,” in addition to attorney’s fees and anything else a court may decide.

On Friday, State officials responded to Canfield’s complaint.

The most important revelations?

The State admits Secretary of State Kris Kobach hosted Bible studies. They claim the sessions were voluntary, as if that makes a difference.

The State also denies that Rucker said Canfield’s refusal to attend church services was the reason she was fired. Instead, they blame her termination on “poor work performance and her inability to work productively with others.”

One local church/state separation advocate points out the first admission is a big deal:

… Vickie [Stangl], president of the Great Plains Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the hosting of Bible study sessions in the workplace by the Kansas secretary of state’s office “crosses the line.” She said employees feel peer pressure to participate even if they are not required to attend.

Stangle said having the sessions creates the perception that government is promoting and endorsing a religion.

“I look at these places as places we are conducting public business and they are not supposed to be houses of worship, and yet it seems to be happening more and more under the guise of so-called religious freedom,” she said.

It’ll be up to a judge to decide whether Canfield’s claim of religious discrimination holds water. But considering how the State freely infuses Christianity in the workplace, their denial of any wrongdoing isn’t very persuasive to me.

(Image via Facebook. Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)


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