A North Carolina police officer who was fired for refusing to train a female colleague, citing a religious exemption, is suing on the grounds of religious discrimination, NBC News reports. The man followed a rule, called “The Billy Graham Rule,” that forbids him from spending any time with a woman who isn’t his wife.
Manuel Torres, 51, is a devout Christian and a deacon at his local church. As he says in court documents, that means that, among other things, he doesn’t spend time alone with women other than his wife, lest he even appear to be involved in “sinful conduct.”
Unfortunately for Torres, his religious beliefs butted up against the demands of his job, and his superiors fired him for it.
Specifically, back in 2017, Torres had been with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for five years. His boss asked him to train a female colleague, an assignment that would have resulted in him being alone with her for extended periods of time. He declined, citing “the strong and sincere religious belief that the Holy Bible prohibits him, as a married man, from being alone for extended periods with a female who is not his wife,” as he says in his lawsuit. He asked for a religious exemption.
According to Torres’ lawsuit, his superiors expressed their “anger” of his religious beliefs, and then “alternately granted and denied” his request. A few weeks later, he was fired. Further, Torres alleges, his former superiors gave him bad references when he applied for jobs at other police departments.
Torres has since sued, seeking monetary compensation for emotional distress, as well as lost wages, both at his former job and at future jobs, according to The Charlotte Observer. He’s seeking $300,000.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on religion, and further requires that employers make efforts to accommodate the employee’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs. However, the proposed accommodation can’t “impose an undue hardship” on the employer.
Whether or not Torres’ demands for accommodation is an “undue hardship” on his former employer will be up to a court to decide.
Torres adhered to the so-called “Billy Graham Rule,” named for the famed evangelist, who himself followed the rule. Also adhering to that rule is Vice President Mike Pence. As The L.A. Times reported in July, Pence refuses to dine alone with women, the only exception being his wife, Karen.