October 2018 Church & State - October 2018

Oregon Man Fired Over Refusal To Attend Bible Study

  Rob Boston

An Oregon construction worker is in court challenging his dismissal from a job – a move, he says, that came after he refused to attend a company-sponsored Bible study.

Ryan Coleman, 34, is suing Dahled Up Construction, a firm based in Albany, Oregon. Coleman asserts that Joel Dahl, the owner of the company, told him that all employees were expected to take part in a weekly Bible study led by a Christian pastor during the work day, reported the Portland Oregonian.

Coleman, who is part Native American and has indigenous religious beliefs, attended the Bible study for about six months because he wanted to keep the job, but he eventually told Dahl he no longer wanted to take part.

“I said ‘I’ve kept an open mind, and it’s just not my thing.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m going to have to replace you,’” Coleman told the Oregonian.

Dahl acknowledged that he requires his employees to attend weekly Bible study, but he insisted it’s all right because he pays them to be there.

Coleman’s attorney, Corinne Schram, disputes that.

“This is so illegal,” Schram said. “Unless you are a religious organization like a church, you cannot force your employees to participate in religious activities.”

Federal law prohibits secular companies from firing or hiring based on an employee’s religious beliefs.

Coleman is seeking $800,000 in lost wages and damages. The lawsuit, Coleman v. Dahled Up Construction, is pending in a state court in Linn County.

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