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Appeals Court Sided with California Church in Wrongful Termination Suit

The 4th District Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling in favor of the defendant Red Hill Lutheran Church and school after firing a preschool teacher for not conforming to their beliefs. The woman was unmarried and lived with a boyfriend and their child, the court decision stated.

The woman filed a wrongful termination suit against the church in May 2009. The church was said to have fired her, according to the Deseret News, for “living arrangement contrary to the religious beliefs of Tustin’s Red Hill Lutheran Church and its school.”

The Santa Ana court, in upholding the lower court’s ruling, said that the church did not terminate the woman on the basis of having a child out-of-wedlock. Instead, the church fired the woman for violating the church’s religious beliefs. The Lutheran church in southern California is part of a more conservative group within the Lutheran faith.

Wrongful termination for religious beliefs is unlawful in California. However, employers have rights to fire at-will employees for a variety of lawful reasons. In this case, it appears that the court did not believe that the church engaged in wrongful termination of the woman for living with her boyfriend and child. It’s unclear from the news report whether the woman and her attorney will appeal the decision.

Source: Deseret News “California church can fire teacher living with boyfriend and child,” 12/18/2011

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