CHICAGO—The Rutherford Institute, dedicated to bringing justice in the workplace, has on Friday, November 1, 2002, presented arguments on behalf of Benjamin Endres and Patricia Homes. Standing before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the speakers for the Rutherford Institution invoked Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as its base argument against their clients’ employers.
Endres, a former Indiana state trooper was fired for his Christian beliefs; he had refused to work on a riverboat casino. Holmes, though allowed to keep her job at the Marion County Office of Family and Children in Indiana, was prohibited from wearing her “geles” headwrap as part of her West African Religious practice.
While the state of Indiana cited Title VII and the Eleventh Amendments to dismiss both cases on the grounds of the federal government’s immunity to private parties in federal court, the Rutherford Institute attorneys contended that under the Fourteenth Amendment, a state could not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Therefore, the State is responsible to give both Endres and Holmes the freedom of practicing their religious beliefs in their workplace.
In March 2000, the Indiana State Police gave Benjamin Endres a one-year assignment as a Gaming Commission Agent to the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Indiana. Both before and after receiving the assignment, Endres firmly informed his supervisors of his religious objection to working on the riverboat as an agent of the Gaming Commission.
Endres felt that working on the boat, would be the evidence of his approval to the casino’s activities. The State Police Department however, made no effort to accommodate Endres, and instead fired him for insubordination.
In April 2000, Patricia Homes filed a complaint that her workplace prohibited her from wearing her ceremonious headwrap as part of her religious practice. Holmes’ supervisor charged her with insubordination of the dress code policy. In addition, her supervisor refused to allow her to wear the headwrap even though other employees were allowed to wear headgear or hats without being threatened with disciplinary action.
"Faithful employees like Ben Endres and Patricia Holmes are perfect examples of the reasons for the protection afforded religious employees in the Civil Rights Act," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "The law simply recognizes that it would be improper and insensitive for an employer to order a Hindu employee to work at a hamburger stand when there’s an opening at the salad bar, to force a Jewish man to remove his yarmulke because of an office policy against headwear, or to order a Baptist police officer to work as a gaming agent."
By Pauline J.