Thursday, July 21, 2005

Allstate sued for religious discrimination by former employee (and conservative Internet writer)

Sent this way by a tipster.

I blogged about this a month ago or there's a lawsuit.

From the Northbrook (IL) Star, excerpted:

A former employee has sued Northbrook-based Allstate Insurance Company for discrimination, maintaining he was fired for writing an Internet-published essay that slams same-sex marriage and homosexual lifestyles.

J. Matt Barber, 35, of Villa Park, said last week his Christian faith led him to write the essay in December 2004, on his own time and at home. His federal lawsuit alleges Allstate officials told him the following month that he was being suspended for writing the piece. He was fired three days later.

Barber's lawsuit claims his dismissal violates his constitutional right to free exercise of religion and seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.

"If a secular employer can fire you for what you believe, a lot of citizens better worry about what their employers can do to them," Barber's attorney, Matthew Davis, said Monday.

Davis works for the Gibbs Law Firm of Seminole, Fla., which specializes in religious rights cases. The firm represented Bob and Mary Schindler, parents of Terri Schiavo, who unsuccessfully sought a court order to prolong her life this year, after a judge ruled she was in a persistent vegetative state and her spouse could order her feeding tube removed.


According to the lawsuit, his new supervisors knew about his off-work writing activities, and neither had "expressed any misgivings or potential disciplinary problems with Mr. Barber's off-work writing activities."

Nevertheless, the lawsuit alleges he was told Jan. 31 that he was being suspended from his job for writing the essay expressing his views on homosexuals and same-sex marriage.

"They slapped down a copy of the article I had written," he said last week. "I was told that 'here at Allstate we have a very diverse community,' those exact words, 'and you know that Allstate does not hold your position."

He said he was escorted from the building, and fired three days later.

Barber said he remains unemployed.

"Intolerance Will Not be Tolerated: The Gay Agenda vs. Family Values," is one of 10 Barber essays carried on, a conservative Web site. Barber said he never identified himself in biographies attached to his writings as an Allstate employee.

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