Christian Nationalists love to claim that religious discrimination is rampant in America. What they identify as “discrimination,” however, is usually something else, such as attempts by government officials to require religious conservatives to abide by a neutral law that everyone else has to follow or a termination of special privileges some religious groups believe they should receive.
Religious discrimination does occur, but it usually looks nothing like what Christian Nationalists claim it is. A recent case from North Carolina is a good example of the real forms of religious discrimination some workers face.
John McGaha and Mackenzie Saunders worked for a home improvement company called Aurora Pro Services in Greensboro. The two identify as an atheist and an agnostic respectively, yet every day they were required by the firm’s owner, Oscar D. Lopez, to attend a 45-minute religious service. The meetings featured prayer and Bible reading.
Employees suffered retaliation
When McGaha and Saunders declined to participate, both suffered retaliation. McGaha, a construction manager, saw his wages slashed in half before being fired. Saunders, a customer service representative, was fired. Both noted that Lopez took attendance during the prayer meetings and that during the events, some employees were singled out by name and accused of poor performance, with prayers being offered for them.
Aurora Pro Services provides things like heating and air conditioning maintenance, plumbing and roof repair. These are secular services, and the company is clearly not a church or some kind of religious enterprise. Thus, it is required to abide by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars religious discrimination in workplaces.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) warned Lopez that he was in violation of federal law, but he turned down the agency’s offer of mediation. The EEOC then filed suit on behalf of the two, and a settlement was announced earlier this month.
No religious coercion in the workplace
Under the terms of the settlement, both ex-employees received back pay. In addition, the EEOC noted in a press release, “Aurora Pro Services will adopt and implement a new anti-discrimination, non-retaliation, and religious accommodation policy and provide training to all managers and employees, including the owner.”
Forcing people to take part in religious activities when they don’t want to and punishing them when they refuse is real religious discrimination. It is illegal.
Christian Nationalists, take note.