California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Thousand Oaks teachers fired for different religious beliefs

    A person’s religion can be something similar to their race, ethnicity or sexuality.

    Their jobs should never be in jeopardy because they do not adhere to a certain religion or belief system.

    Little Oaks School, a small Christian elementary school in Thousand Oaks, disagrees.

    Two teachers were terminated because they would not sign a statement of faith or provide  reference from a pastor.

    According to the Ventura County Star, the school wanted a more Christian-based education and 2012 was the first year they had employees sign a statement of faith at Little Oaks.

    According to the Ventura County Star, before the teachers could even move forward with suing the schools, the school beat them to the punch by suing both the teachers and the teachers’ lawyer.

    To be fired based on religious views is unacceptable.

    The teachers were fired solely for not providing the documentation to prove they would observe the school’s faith.

    “Regardless of the organization or company, when the reasons of termination are based on aspects of one’s personal beliefs or values, the circumstances are even more heightened,” said Michael Elgarico, director of CLU undergraduate admissions. “When religion, employment and education intersect under the auspices of two distinct laws at both Federal and State levels, the interpretation is not as simple as one would assume.”

    As a for-profit religious school, Little Oaks has to follow the nondiscrimination rules of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, according to the Ventura County Star.

    They believe, however, that as a religious school, they should be able to choose the employees who agree with their religious beliefs, even if they are a for-profit school.

    “The private religious school is designated as a for-profit institution and is therefore not legally able to discriminate under California state law, namely FEHA,” said junior Michael Frieda. “Yet under federal law, Little Oaks will almost certainly be protected by a myriad of Supreme Court decisions affirming the employment rights of a sectarian institution, regardless of for-profit status. The best that we can hope for is that the cases do not end up in legal limbo.”

    Little Oaks argues that they are only for-profit because they didn’t fill out the non-profit forms due to time constraints. I find that to be an unacceptable excuse, plain and simple.

    “While the final verdict of this case may set some precedent, ultimately cases such as these are highly nuanced,” said Elgarico, “They will undoubtedly bring forth extensive debate as to where these policies are drawn, because clearly they were not defined enough initially, leaving room for interpretation.”

    If a teacher is doing their job by teaching students to the academic standards while being nondiscriminatory of all religions, beliefs and practices, then there is no problem.

    One of the preschool teachers fired had been an employee of Little Oaks for six years, while the other taught for a year, according to the Ventura County Star.

    “After having taught for six years, I would have expected more respect from the school toward their staff,” said junior Morgan Lucas.

    The statement of faith was a new part of the condition to maintain their position.

    “When change happens, strong decisions have to be made,” said Lucas. “But having hired non-religious staff for a Christian school may have been their issue in the first place.”

    I understand that a faith-based school may find the need to make it understood that the education will be taught with a faith basis, but being forced to be a part of the faith makes absolutely no sense.

    It is wrong that these teachers were fired because of the school’s extreme choice.

     

    Veronica Manzo
    Staff Writer
    Published Feb. 6, 2013

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