DENVER — A woman in Colorado has filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, alleging that her supervisor forced her to attend a lunch-hour Bible study against her will.
The twice-a-week Bible studies were held by Norma Lawanson of the Office of Professional Services and Educator Licensure at the Colorado Department of Education.
Theresa Chavez states that she was required to attend the Bible studies at the office, and when she told Lawanson she wasn’t interested and dropped out, she was punished. Reports do not provide further information on the alleged punishment.
“She told her supervisor that she no longer wanted to attend the studies, and things just went downhill from there,” her attorney Jennifer Robinson told 9News. “The Bible studies were on state property, at work, during work hours [and] using state resources.”
But the Colorado Department of Education denies the allegations. A human resources director explained in recent correspondence over the matter that “the Colorado Department of Education denies all allegations of discrimination, retaliation and harassment.”
“If at any time Ms. Chavez would have stated to Ms. Lawanson that she no longer wanted to attend or talk about church, activities, or studies, Ms. Lawanson would have ended those discussions,” they wrote.
Chavez filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division in September and the Department of Education responded the following month. The Division has yet to rule on the matter.
As previously reported, a similar story unfolded last month when a grocery store owner in Iowa was ordered to pay unemployment benefits to a former employee who quit her job after she was questioned about her personal lifestyle and exhorted to read the Bible.
Tyler Stille owns Tabor Market and Deli and is known for his strong Christian beliefs. In September 2011, he hired Sherri Chafin, who is not a Christian, but said she didn’t have an issue with Stille’s Biblical beliefs—until those beliefs intersected with her personal life.
Chafin, who now works at a sexually-oriented shop, told the Des Moines Register that she quit her job months later after being questioned about her living arrangement and exhorted to read the Scriptures. She then filed for unemployment.
At the end of the unemployment hearing, Administrative Judge Julie Elder sided with Chafin, stating that Stille was wrong for imposing his beliefs on Chafin and ordered him to pay unemployment.
“He effectively held her hostage in his office and lectured her regarding his religious and moral beliefs and her alleged shortcomings in his eyes,” Elder ruled, calling Stille’s actions “inappropriate, unacceptable and unprofessional.”
Stille said that the decision was troublesome and that he didn’t believe the government had the right to tell him how to run his grocery store as a Christian business owner.
“It’s just a lot of baloney and it’s more of government getting involved where it shouldn’t,” he told reporters. “I’m just really frustrated with the whole mess.”