August 30, 2019
A Southern Baptist deacon who says he was fired as a deputy with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina for trying to practice the “Billy Graham Rule” on the job is now suing his former employers for more than $300,000 in damages for religious discrimination.
According to NBC News, it appears that it is the first time the rule has been the subject of a religious discrimination case.
The deacon, Manuel Torres, 51, who sometimes serves at East Sanford Baptist Church in Sanford, had worked as a deputy with Lee County for about five years when his boss asked him to train a female deputy in July 2017.
Torres reportedly asked for a religious accommodation, the lawsuit says, because of his belief in what has been dubbed the “Billy Graham Rule,” a form of which is practiced by Vice President Mike Pence.
“Torres holds the strong and sincere religious belief that the Holy Bible prohibits him, as a married man, from being alone for extended periods with a female who is not his wife,” the suit states, according to The Charlotte Observer, which first reported on the case.
The job duty of training female deputies, in such a manner, violates [Torres’] religious beliefs against being alone for periods of time with female(s) who is/are not his wife and leaving the appearance of sinful conduct on his part.”
Torres, according to the lawsuit, objected to undertake the training because training the female deputy would require him to “spend significant periods of time alone in his patrol car with the female officer trainee.”
Torres alleges that after he made his accommodation request, it was denied. He then complained to higher-ups which, he argues, caused his sergeant to retaliate by allegedly failing to respond to a call for backup “in an unsafe area in which Torres had to tase two fighting suspects, and a gun was present on the scene.”
He further alleged that one of his superior officers “expressed his anger” at the repeated requests for religious accommodation in early September. He was fired a week after without explanation.
Professor Joanna Grossman, the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and the Law at Southern Methodist University Law School who is also a leading expert in gender discrimination law, previously told Business INSIDER that bosses who follow the rule, could be illegally discriminating against their female employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which establishes anti-discrimination protections in the workplace for “protected characteristics,” including sex.
Officials at Torres church were not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Christian Post on Monday but Robbie Gibson, Torres’ pastor, told Christianity Today that the former deputy is “a man who is genuinely trying to walk his faith out in everyday life.”
Gibson said the Billy Graham Rule is the “best approach” for avoiding temptation.
“You cannot live in a #MeToo world” and “then force people to act and live in such a way that they can be accused without any defense,” Gibson argued.
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