March 30, 2015

Court OKs Faith School's Firing of Teachers Over Churchgoing

A California judge ruled last week that a Los Angeles-area religious school was within its rights to dismiss two teachers who refused to provide a reference from a pastor attesting to their church attendance and other faith matters, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Lynda Serrano and Mary Ellen Guevara sued the Little Oaks School in Thousand Oaks, Calif., in May 2013, claiming wrongful termination and religious discrimination, after it declined to renew their contracts as preschool instructors.

The conflict arose from a policy the school adopted in 2012 seeking pastoral endorsements of employees' fitness to work at a Christian school, based, among other things, on how often teachers went to church. A state judge ruled that Little Oaks, which requires teachers to take students to chapel and lead daily prayers, qualifies for a federal exemption to anti-discrimination laws for employees who perform ministerial duties.

Godspeak Calvary Chapel, which owns the school, "believed it was important to verify the views of these teachers as ministers of the Gospel," said Robert Taylor, a lawyer for Little Oaks.