Religious freedom law firm First Liberty Institute has filed charges of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of two Christian flight attendants who were fired by Alaska Airlines after questioning the company’s backing of the Equality Act.
On Feb. 25, Alaska Airlines announced its support for the Equality Act on an internal employee message board and encouraged employees to comment.
If passed by the Senate, the Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the list of protected classes, and would also invalidate the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and similar state laws that aim to define religious liberty provisions.
According to First Liberty, Lacey Smith, an Alaska Airlines employee for nearly eight years, posed a question on the forum, asking her employer, “As a company, do you think it’s possible to regulate morality?”
In the same forum, First Liberty’s second client, who wishes to remain anonymous, asked, “Does Alaska [Airlines] support: endangering the church, encouraging suppression of religious freedom, obliterating women’s rights and parental rights?”
Both clients were subsequently investigated, questioned by airline authorities and eventually fired from their jobs.
In its notice of discharge to Smith, Alaska Airlines claimed, “Defining gender identity or sexual orientation as a moral issue … is … a discriminatory statement.”
Similarly, the second flight attendant, who had worked for the airline since 2013, was told that her post was also discriminatory and “create[d] a hostile work environment.”
“I was shocked that the airline I loved working for fired me for asking a question about something the airline asked us to support,” Smith told Newsweek. “I thought my question would receive the same level of respect that I give to others. It’s frightening to think that Americans can lose their jobs for simply asking questions about important issues.”
“The corporate ‘canceling’ of our clients by Alaska Airlines makes a mockery of laws that protect religious Americans from employment discrimination,” said David Hacker, director of litigation for First Liberty Institute. “It is a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their religious beliefs and expression.
“Every American should be frightened if an employer can fire them for simply asking questions based on their religious beliefs about culturally important issues,” he added.
The Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in February, but a vote has not yet been scheduled in the Senate, where the bill is expected to face Republican opposition.
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