In 2017, a debt recovery company called AscensionPoint Recovery Services (APRS) asked its employees to be fingerprinted as part of a background check investigation for one of their clients.
Henry Harrington, one of those employees, said no… because getting fingerprinted went against his Christian faith. He was fired that same day.
Now the U.S. government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is filing a lawsuit on his behalf against the company, saying that APRS should have accommodated his batshit crazy religious request.
Their argument is not that Harrington is being reasonable — that’s never the issue when it comes to religion and the legal system — but that the company didn’t even try to work around the issue before demanding that Harrington violate his religious beliefs or be fired. They axed him before even looking into the matter.
… APRS [fired Harrington] without asking the client whether an exemption was available as a religious accommodation, and despite the fact that alternatives to fingerprinting are available.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s religious practice unless it would pose an undue hardship.
The EEOC is saying it wasn’t a burden for APRS to at least request an alternative to a fingerprint for a background check. By jumping straight to firing him, they “deprive[d] Harrington of equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely affect[ed] his status as an employee, because of his religion.”
You can read the full lawsuit here. It’s sparse on details and, in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t offer a reason for why getting fingerprinted violates Harrington’s faith. But again, legally, that’s irrelevant.
As frustrating as this may be, the EEOC may be on solid legal footing. Courts don’t weigh in on whether sincerely held religious beliefs are rational; that loophole has allowed religious bigots to get away with all kinds of harmful conduct in the name of their faith.
Still, I really want Harrington to tell us where in the Bible it says that getting fingerprinted is a sin. What twisted logic is he using here? Which denomination does he belong to?!
When the Minnesota Star Tribune asked him to elaborate, he refused:
Harrington declined Friday to be more specific about which faith he practices or field other questions about his suit.
Even if Harrington won’t talk, he’s not the only Christian to claim fingerprints go against his faith. In 2017, a Pennsylvania woman won a similar legal fight after claiming that getting fingerprinted would deprive her from going to Heaven because she’d have “the mark of the devil.”
In 2009, evangelical Christian and kindergarten teacher Pam McLaurin also refused to get fingerprinted for her Texas school district. She made the same complaint in a lawsuit:
Her attorney, Scott Skelton, said his client believes that the computerized fingerprinting, in which her fingerprints will be stored in a database, is the mark addressed in Revelation. The teacher does not believe that it is merely coincidence that Revelation says only those with the ‘mark on his forehead or on his hand’ will be able to buy or sell, since only those teachers who comply with fingerprinting requirements will keep their jobs, he said.
What does that mean? Who the hell knows. It’s religion. It’s not supposed to make sense.
The ACLU of Texas, by the way, was on her side just like the EEOC is defending Harrington now. McLaurin lost that case, but due to some details in her situation that are not perfectly analogous to Harrington’s situation, he may have a stronger legal case.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)