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No one expects to be fired when following the directives of their superiors. But that’s exactly what happened to Fire Chief Ron Heitel when he considered a global leadership conference he’d attended from Stockton, California. “a religious event”.
After 24 years of protecting the lives and property of his community, President Hitler was fired Not for disobeying orders but because of his faith and religious activities.
This week, attorneys at First Liberty Institute, Baker Botts LLP, and the Church State Council urged a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to Reversing a lower court’s decision which allowed Stockton to fire President Heatl.
After asking city officials to “improve the leadership skills of its staff,” Chief Heitel considered his options and chose a convention he believed would be most beneficial and meet his bosses’ goals. In an act of sheer religious discrimination, the Stockton officials treated Chief Hittle as if he had broken the law simply because the conference was held in a church. The only law broken was Chief Hitel’s dismissal for exercising his religious freedom.
The conference he and three other officers from the Stockton Fire Department attended was the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, which featured speakers from a wide variety of experiences. Among the prominent businessmen and religious leaders who spoke was Jim Collins, a nationally renowned business thinker. 2007 Super Bowl coach Tony Dungy; Daniel Pink, bestselling author and business thinker; TD Jakes, head pastor of The Potter’s House; and Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.
President Hittle and the staff accompanying him paid admission to the conference out of their own pockets. They are here to extract valuable insights from renowned experts to strengthen their leadership roles for the benefit of the City of Stockton and the people they serve. Although federal law protects the rights of every American to live without fear of termination for their religious beliefs, the city of Stockton has ignored this law.
Attendance at the so-called “religious event” is specifically mentioned in the notice of termination issued by the city to Chief Hittle. The city coroner determined that this was one of Chief Heitel’s “most serious acts of alleged misconduct”. The city’s action was a clear violation of federal law that “prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.”
The city of Stockton’s decision to terminate President Hittle for attending this “religious event” not only violates his rights to religious freedom. Under the US ConstitutionIt is also a distorted assessment of the input of leadership experts at the conference.
The mere fact that the content shared by secular and religious leaders occurred in a church setting does not make the principles of leadership invalid. The venue of the conference, whether it be a church, synagogue, mosque, civic auditorium, hotel auditorium, or high school gymnasium, does not change the value or integrity of a global leadership conference that for 25 years has been attended by both religious and non-religious. Religious people from all over the world.
Federal law protects every American’s freedom to live without fear of simply being evicted because of their beliefs. Obviously, Chief Hitel had fulfilled his superiors’ directives when he attended the leadership summit, but he was fired anyway.
Now is the time for the courts to recognize that religious discrimination in the workplace like that demonstrated by Stockton, California, cannot continue.