Fired deputy who refused to train female officer on religious grounds sues for discrimination

A new lawsuit filed by a former sheriff’s deputy in Sanford, N.C. blames his firing on “religious discrimination,” the Sanford Herald reports.

Manuel Torres claims his Sept. 11, 2017 termination from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was punishment for a situation two months prior, in which he refused to train a female officer because of his faith. Like Vice President Mike Pence, Torres, who serves as a deacon at his local Baptist church, believes that the Bible prohibits men from being alone with any woman who is not his wife.

He, therefore, sought a religious accommodation to get out of the July 17 training, which, his lawsuit claims, would “require he spend significant periods of time alone in his patrol car with the female officer trainee.”

Torres’s suit charges that his refusal resulted in retaliatory acts, including a failure to receive back-up while on the job and a confrontation with an angry higher-up. He was ultimately fired that September “without explanation.”

In addition to his former employer, Torres has also named the North Carolina cities of Siler City and Apex in his lawsuit, accusing them of rejecting him for full-time employment because of his religious faith.

An attorney for Torres told news outlet ABC 11 that he is expecting an as-yet-undisclosed amount to cover lost current and future wages, as well as emotional distress. He is also looking to have his job with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office reinstated.

Torres’s objection to being along with women is often referred to as the “Billy Graham rule,” as the late evangelical leader declined to eat, travel or meet alone with a woman other than his wife, Ruth. He did, however, famously make an exception for Hillary Clinton, on the grounds that their meeting took place in a public dining room.

More recently, Vice President Pence has raised concerns about workplace discrimination after it was reported that he will not dine alone with a woman other than his wife, Karen, or attend an event in which alcohol is served unless she is present. Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris called the practice “outrageous” in March.

“I disagree with him when he suggests it’s not possible to have meetings with women alone by himself,” she said during an appearance on MSNBC. “I think that’s ridiculous ― the idea that you would deny a professional woman the opportunity to have a meeting with the vice president of the United States is outrageous.”

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