California courts have the reputation of being some, if not the most liberal courts in America. That’s why this report caught my attention and I felt it needed to be shared.
Several years ago, Red Hill Lutheran Church in Tustin, California terminated the employment of their preschool director Sara Henry for violating the church’s ordinances. Henry was living with her boyfriend and bore a child out of wedlock. Specifically stated in their defense the church said that Henry was fired because she continued to live with her boyfriend and carry on a sexual relationship with him while she was unmarried.
In 2009, Henry filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the church.
The case was heard before a lower court that ruled the Lutheran church acted within its rights to terminate Henry. She appealed the case which was recently heard before California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal.
In a decision that greatly surprised me and many others, the 4th District Court upheld the lower court’s decision that supported the church in their actions. In their ruling, the court said that Henry had been terminated due to religious concerns that the church’s staff and ordained ministers are required to uphold a certain moral standard and she failed to uphold that standard. Since it was a religious issue within the church, the court also ruled that the termination was not in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Henry and her attorneys had argued.
This court decision is huge for churches and religious institutions that require their staff to conform to certain moral standards based upon their religious beliefs. Had the court ruled against the church, it would have had devastating effects nationwide as it would have stripped any Christian church or organization from holding their staff to biblical standards of moral conduct.
It also points out the necessity of every Christian church and organization to have a written set of beliefs and standards that they expect their staff to uphold. They need to make sure that each staff member reads and signs the statements and keep those signatures on file.
My hat’s off to California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal for making the right decision.