Gregory Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel International
Our nation promises everyone the freedom to believe as they want, but our laws cannot allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others. Religious freedom should not be distorted to make law that licenses discrimination against people who work for religious employers.
Religious extremists are trying to exploit a legal principle known as the “ministerial exception” to sidestep civil rights laws and fire, harass or retaliate against workers because of their race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or disability. The ministerial exception is meant to ensure that houses of worship can freely choose their clergy; it was never intended to be a free pass for any religious employer to discriminate against its entire workforce.
Americans United is urging the courts not to give religious employers a free pass to harass and fire employees. This gross misinterpretation of religious freedom would deny basic workplace protections and would especially harm LGBTQ people, women, people of color, religious minorities and the nonreligious.
Gregg Tucker devoted 14 years of his life to Faith Christian Academy in Colorado, teaching and later also serving as Director of Student Life.
After Gregg and his wife adopted a daughter, Daniela, who is Black, some students began to call Gregg and his family racial slurs, including the n-word. Gregg also witnessed the unchecked racism that some students directed at their Black, Hispanic and Asian classmates. The abuse included the use of racial slurs, white students dressing in Ku Klux Klan hoods, mock executions of students of color, statements supporting neo-Nazism, and white supremacist and racist commentary on social media.
Gregg felt the school was ignoring the problem. With the administration’s support, he organized a symposium for students in January 2018 to address racism. While the event was overwhelmingly well received, a handful of parents whose children were the worst offenders of racist behavior objected and demanded that Gregg be fired. The school caved in – they stripped Gregg of some of his duties and eventually fired him.
Gregg filed a federal lawsuit in June 2019 because the school violated his civil rights by retaliating against him when he opposed the school’s racially hostile environment. The school is trying to exploit a legal doctrine called the “ministerial exception” to avoid responsibility for allowing Gregg to suffer racially motivated harassment at work and unjustly firing him. But Gregg Tucker was not a minister – he was not responsible for teaching theology, had no important religious functions as a part of his job, and was explicitly told by the school that he was not a minister when he inquired about a tax deduction available only to ministers.
Americans United joined Gregg’s legal team in Fall 2020, because people who work for religious employers should not face discrimination when they oppose racism.
May 11, 2021: The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral argument in Gregg Tucker’s case. Americans United Litigation Counsel Bradley Girard appears on behalf of Gregg. Read AU’s statement here.
Jan. 13, 2021: Americans United and co-counsel at the Denver law firm Levin Sitcoff PC file a brief on Gregg Tucker’s behalf with 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
June 17, 2020: Faith Christian Academy files an unprecedented and inappropriate immediate appeal with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
May 18, 2020: The U.S. District Court in Colorado allows Gregg Tucker’s case to proceed when it refuses to grant the school’s request to declare Gregg a “minister” and dismiss the case.
June 7, 2019: Gregg Tucker files Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel International in U.S. District Court in Colorado.