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On The Front Lines

The Rutherford Institute Defends the Right to Religious Expression in the Workplace

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.--Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed an appeal in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana on behalf of Benjamin Endres and Patricia Holmes, who have charged their State employers with violating their constitutional right to religious expression in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Endres was a former Indiana state trooper who was fired for refusing to work on a riverboat casino because of his religious beliefs. Homes, an employee at the Marion County Office of Family and Children, was prohibited from wearing a headwrap known as a geles as part of her religious practice. In both cases, the state of Indiana moved to dismiss their cases, claiming that the federal government did not have the authority to authorize religious discrimination suits against States under Title VII, and that under the Eleventh Amendment, States were immune to suits by private parties in federal court. In their appeal, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that under the Fourteenth Amendment States cannot "deny to any person within its juristriction the equal protection of the laws" and that Eleventh Amendment immunity does not prevent Endres and Homes from making claims under Title VII.

In March 2000, the Indiana State Police gave 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 informed his supervisors of his sincere religious objection to working on the riverboat as an agent of the Gaming Commission. He felt it would convey the message that he condoned the riverboat casino's activities, such as gambling and drinking. Rutherford Institute legal staff contacted the Superintendent of the Indiana State Troopers to inform him of Endres' right to accommodation. But the State Police Department made no effort to accommodate Endres, however, and fired him for insubordination after an administrative hearing.

In April 2000, Holmes filed a complaint alleging that her employer, Marion County Office of Family and Children discriminated against her because she wore a geles headwrap as part of her religious practice. She said that her supervisor informed her that she would be written up for subordination for violating the office dress code policy if she did not stop wearing the geles. Holmes told her supervisor that due to religious reasons she could not remove her geles and then had to take two vacation days to avoid being disciplined. 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.

The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.

Press Contact

Nisha N. Mohammed
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Email: Nisha N. Mohammed