A former staffer in Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office has lost her case in which she claimed she was fired for not going to church.
According to the plaintiff, Courtney Canfield, the ordeal began in 2013 when she was invited to a church service by someone working for Assistant Secretary Eric K. Rucker. That happened multiple times but she never went. (Canfield was a Methodist, but not particularly religious.)
Canfield said she was never caused any other kind of “trouble” except when she once used an office phone to call her physician for a personal matter. Hardly a big deal.
But later that year, Rucker allegedly 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, the lawsuit claimed Rucker told Margie to tell her granddaughter she was fired:
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 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 decided.
State officials completely dismissed Canfield’s complaint, saying church attendance had nothing to do with her firing. They blamed her termination on “poor work performance and her inability to work productively with others.”
They also admitted that Kobach, who’s currently helping run Donald Trump‘s sham “election integrity commission,” hosted voluntary Bible studies at work. That’s a separate but also disturbing issue. When the boss leads a Bible Study, there’s certainly an expectation that employees will attend. It’s the same reason high school football coaches shouldn’t be leading the team in prayer.
In any case, a Kansas jury finally ruled on the matter yesterday, siding with the State.
Within an hour after the verdict was read, Secretary of State Kris Kobach issued a statement referring to the lawsuit as “baseless.”
Officials from the office said they did not and would not know whether Canfield was attending church. They said the decision to fire Canfield came after an “altercation” Canfield had with another employee. Canfield was sent home and informed by her grandmother that she had been terminated.
The ruling doesn’t mean the jury found Canfield’s story entirely inaccurate. It’s possible what she said about religion was true, but the jury still felt she was fired for other (legal) reasons.
(Thanks to Scott for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier. Image via Shutterstock)