March 2016 Church & State - March 2016

Pa. Atheist May Sue Over Dismissal From ‘Christian’ Firm

  AU admin

An atheist may sue his former employer for unlawful termination and religious discrimination in the workplace, a federal judge has ruled. The U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania ruled in January to allow the case to proceed.

Paul Mathis, who once worked for Christian Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., in Southampton, Pa., claims that he was fired after he identified himself as an atheist to coworkers and taped over religious messages on his company badge.

“This company is not only a business, it is a ministry. It is set on standards that are higher than man’s own. Our goal is to run this company in a way most pleasing to the Lord,” the badges read.

Mathis asserted that the firm’s evangelical Christian owner, David Peppelman, required employees to drive red vans with a dove logo symbolizing the Holy Spirit and allegedly urged Mathis repeatedly to attend church. Mathis, who says he did not object to working for a company with “Christian” in its name or to driving company vans, argued that by refusing to allow him to cover part of his badge, Peppelman had illegally failed to offer him reasonable accommodation for his beliefs.

In response, Peppelman has raised a religious-freedom defense, saying that the requested accommodation would have violated his religious beliefs.

The case is Mathis v. Christian Heating And Air-Conditioning, Inc.

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