JW Teacher Sues School District For Being Fired Over Valentin's Day

by Bangalore 20 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Bangalore


    A former public elementary school teacher who is a Jehovah’s Witness has filed a lawsuit against the suburban Detroit school district where she used to work because, she claims, school officials ordered her to organize a classroom Valentine’s Day party and then sacked her because she refused.

    People who belong to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a millenarian Christian sect, do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. Thus, the teacher, Yvonne Lemmons, is suing for religious discrimination, reports Michigan Live.

    The defendant in the lawsuit is the Southfield Public School District in Southfield, Mich.

    Lemmons, 56, says in her lawsuit that she had been a fourth-grade teacher at MacArthur University Academy, a public magnet school, for 10 years and had faced no issues concerning her religious beliefs prior to the Valentine’s Day party kerfuffle.

    “She’s really a good woman devoted to teaching students,” Kathy Bogas, an attorney representing Lemmons, told Michigan Live. “Her abilities were never questioned until she challenged this directive.”

    According to the lawsuit, on Feb. 12, 2014 — a Wednesday — the principal at MacArthur University Academy instructed Lemmons to throw an in-class Valentine’s Day party.

    Lemmons refused, citing her status as a Jehovah’s Witness.

    In the past, Bogas noted, parents of the students in Lemmons’s classes organized Valentine’s Day parties.

    It’s not clear what was different about 2014. The lawsuit doesn’t say, and the school district would not comment on the lawsuit.

    In any case, Lemmons did not show up for work on the day of the party — presumably Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

    Then, in June 2014, she was sacked.

    Lemmons believes her dismissal is directly related to her refusal to organize be any part of the Valentine’s Day party.

    “Defendant rejected all the Plaintiff’s suggestions that would have permitted students to have a holiday celebration without Plaintiff violating her religious beliefs,” the teacher’s court pleading states.

    Lemmons and her attorneys argue that the school district’s refusal to accommodate her genuine religious belief and her subsequent job loss amount to illegal religious discrimination.

    The lawsuit lists no specific dollar amount.

    Lemmons has found work at an unnamed charter school since she was laid off.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses object to Valentine’s Day because they seek a restoration of their notion of first-century Christianity. Valentine’s Day involves Cupid — the Greek god of erotic love — and one or more possibly martyred, third-century Roman saints named Valentinus.

    Other holidays that Jehovah’s Witnesses spurn include Halloween. There’s no love for the Easter Bunny, either, because said bunny is, of course, a rabbit, and thus “a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility,” according to the official Jehovah’s Witnesses website.

    It’s not clear how Lemmons handled Halloween parties in her classroom, if they occurred.

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses website declares that there are 8,220,105 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the world. This figure includes Prince.

    The Notorious B.I.G. and President Dwight D. Eisenhower were reportedly raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses. (RELATED: Gloria Steinem Just Got Her Rap Name In Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Chambers)


  • cofty

    Surely these sort of issues arise for teachers multiple times every year. Perhaps it was the last straw?

  • cognac
    Sucks to lose your career over religious discrimination. Wonder how many people that got d'ffed lost their careers because all their work affiliations were JWs...
  • Saintbertholdt

    Here's one supreme court ruling: In Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Commission of Florida the Court held unconstitutional Florida’s denial of unemployment benefits to a person who had been fired from her retail sales job because she had joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church and was no longer available for work on her Sabbath, which ran from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. In an 8-1 decision, the Court held this case to be controlled by Sherbert and Thomas and thus subject to strict scrutiny. Finding no significant differences between those cases and this one, it reiterated that “the State may not force an employee `to choose between following the precepts of her religion and forfeiting benefits, ... and abandoning one of the precepts of her religion in order to accept work.’”

  • Landy
    I somehowhow get the impression there's more to that story then the headline.
  • steve2

    I'm astonished she lost her job over refusing to organize classroom activities for - of all festivities! - Valentine's Day.

    Surely schools have no place in encouraging this?

    Surely too there'd be other teachers who wouldn't see their role as including organizing classroom activities for this day?

    I hope the authorities see common sense over this.

    She failed to turn up to school on the Friday. Her case might have been stronger had she been present but refused to organise Valentine Day activities.

  • OrphanCrow

    I am curious as to how this woman managed to teach in a secular school system for 10 years and only now her refusal to participate in holidays has become an issue.

    What about all those other holidays besides Valentine's Day? How was her noncelebration of holidays handled in the past? Did her classes just have to opt out of coloring Easter eggs or Xmas trees? Did her classes go for 10 years sans celebrations or activities of any kind related to holidays?

    I am with Cofty and Landy on this one. It sounds like a last straw. There seems like there is more to this than what is being presented.

    I have an image in my head of all these kids sitting in their classroom on Valentine's Day with nothing to do while the rest of the school celebrated. A whole classroom doing what I was forced to do as a kid - sit and watch while everyone else got to participate and I didn't.

    It's a conundrum. On one hand, it is reasonable to expect that a person should not have to violate their religious beliefs in their job, but on the other hand, it seems to be wrong that the students do not have the right to be free from the teacher's religious views.

    The teacher's refusal to accomodate the classroom's freedom from her religion becomes a problem. At what point do the children's rights become paramount over her rights?

    I am grateful that neither of my children were unlucky enough to draw a JW teacher when they were going to school. I would have lost my mind.

  • ShirleyW

    So what did she do when Christmas rolls around?

    There are many JW teachers and I've heard a few say they let their class plan the holiday parties, they just don't participate in it.

    There was a case here in NYC about ten years ago when a teacher told a KIndergarten class there was no Santa Claus, I believe she was suspended for a while, or either lost her job. How dare a pompous Dub tell a bunch of five year olds there's no Santa Claus, like she could actually count that time or something.

  • EmptyInside
    I'm sure there was some way to work around it A few parents would help plan the parties in years past.
  • LoveUniHateExams

    This is where we end up when Government refuses to monitor religions and encourages each religious group to live in its own little world.

    Absolutely ridiculous.

    Religious people in The West should understand that if they choose to be public servants, then they're expected to get involved with things like Valentine's Day or Christmas. Take it or leave it ...

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