Some Americans may be aware that since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, the religious right has ramped up its crusade to force the evangelical religion into all segments of society beginning with public schools and state governments. It is probably not as widely known that there are also evangelicals who are forcing their brand of Christianity down the throats of Americans at their places of employment. It is likely less well known because employees are reticent to complain about employers forcing religious compliance because doing so will result in losing their jobs.
One Oregon man is the rare exception and is doing more than complaining; he is suing his former evangelical employer for terminating his employment in construction because he refused to attend mandatory bible studies. It is the ultimate example of what is likely on the near horizon now that Trump has given the religious right unwarranted and unconstitutional authority over the people.
The 34-year-old construction worker in Albany Oregon, Ryan Coleman, filed an $800,000 lawsuit against Dahled Up Construction Company because the owner, Joel Dahl, terminated his employment after Coleman refused to attend any more bible study classes. Shortly after beginning his construction job last October he realized his boss required all employees to attend Christian bible classes during work time as a condition of continued employment.
Mr. Coleman, who is not a practicing Christian, informed his new boss that he was uncomfortable attending Jesus lessons and that it was illegal for him to require employees to study the Christian bible. The boss was not going to bend and insisted that to keep his job Coleman would have to come to Jesus class. Since he needed a job, Mr. Coleman said that he believed he had no other choice and suffered forced bible study classes just to keep his job.
That began in October of last year. Fast forward to April 2018 when Mr. Coleman had enough Christianity forced on him and told his boss by phone that he had a constitutional right to refuse being forced into religious studies. That was too much for the evangelical to take and he summarily terminated Mr. Coleman’s employment for not coming to Jesus. The termination prompted Coleman to file the lawsuit alleging that Dahl discriminated against him due to his non-Christian religious beliefs.
Coleman said that because he is half Native American, his religious beliefs are indigenous. In fact, despite not legally having to submit to religious indoctrination, Coleman tried to “keep an open mind about being forced to study the Christian Bible to keep his job;” by April, “he could no longer continue the practice.” Coleman lasted at the evangelical’s company a little over six months until he was terminated for exercising his constitutional right to freedom of religion. He took the time to explain to “The Oregonian/OregonLive” how he was terminated over the phone after he told Dahl:
“I’ve kept an open mind, and it’s [forced bible study] just not my thing.”
The company owner replied, “Well, I’m going to have to replace you. You’re not going to tell me how to run my own company.’”
Mr. Coleman said, “I’m not trying to tell you how to run your own company, but you’re not going to tell me what god to pray to.”
Corinne Schram is Mr. Coleman’s attorney and she stated the obvious:
“This is so illegal. Unless you are a religious organization like a church, you cannot force your employees to participate in religious activities.”
It is unclear if churches or any religious organization can legally require an employee to suffer religious indoctrination or be forced to participate in religious activities. However, what is clear is that a private employer forcing an employee to participate in any religious activity is illegal. It is also immoral, unconstitutional, and patently un-American. But not many people are accusing religious extremists of being moral or law-abiding – it is a direct result of an immoral criminal in the White House giving evangelical extremists authority over the rest of the population.
According to the evangelical malcontent forcing his employees to sit through Jesus training, it is legal to force religion down his employee’s throats because he pays them. The cretin, as true an evangelical extremist as one could imagine, dispatched his lawyer, Kent Hickam, to inform The Oregonian/OregonLive that there is no dispute that the religious extremist requires all employees to attend Bible study classes, and that it is legal because the company owner pays them to attend.
The attorney also played the persecuted Christian card saying his client is being taken advantage of with the lawsuit Mr. Coleman rightfully claimed is about discrimination against him due to his non-Christian religious beliefs. The evangelical’s lawyer said:
“Mr. Dahl feels that it’s unfortunate that he (Coleman) is now trying to exploit Mr. Dahl’s honorable intentions for unjustified financial gain.”
Mr. Coleman was satisfied with the financial gain he earned working for the construction company, but he lost that “gain” when Dahl dishonorably terminated his employment because he did not want to be indoctrinated with Jesus lessons.
This idea of evangelicals forcing their employees to comply with their religious beliefs is not necessarily new, but it is becoming more blatant since evangelicals aided Trump’s ascendancy to a place he has no right visiting, much less occupying. Remember, the Hobby Lobby case centered around the company owners’ belief that they have a constitutional right to force their employees to adhere to the owners’ religious belief that using contraception is a sin. It is a similar situation in the Catholic hospital industry where employees have to comply with Vatican prohibitions on any form of birth control considered unnatural or lose their jobs.
Although this unconstitutional practice of forcing religion on employees or public school students is not common knowledge, it is a common occurrence; and it is going to increase now that Trump is prodding evangelicals to violate the law. That is precisely what the criminal did last week when he directed about 100 members of the clergy to campaign for him and Republicans from the pulpit in direct violation of the Johnson Amendment. Of course the faithful, whether they are members of the clergy or evangelical extremist employers, do not need permission from Trump to force religion down Americans’ throats, but the assurance that Trump’s Department of Justice will support the faithful over the Constitution does embolden and empower the extremists.
It is almost impossible to believe that Mr. Coleman will not win his discrimination lawsuit and one hopes it is financially painful for the evangelical malcontent. Whether a painful financial settlement will encourage the evangelical to stop forcing his employees to suffer mandatory bible classes is unclear. What is abundantly clear is that the company’s owner did force religious indoctrination on his employees in direct violation of the Constitution and anti-discrimination laws. Because like evangelical extremists and their facilitator Trump, Coleman’s employer believes the Constitution, like the rule of law, does not apply to the faithful. It is a dangerous mindset that is going to get much worse as America continues its lurch towards an evangelical theocracy.