The Billy Graham Rule Goes to Court

A North Carolina sheriff’s deputy sues his former employer for religious discrimination after it wouldn’t accommodate his request to not train a female officer one-on-one.
DAVID ROACH AUGUST 20, 2019

The Billy Graham Rule Goes to Court

Aformer North Carolina sheriff’s deputy may be the first to file a lawsuit alleging he faced discrimination for his commitment to the “Billy Graham Rule.”

Manuel Torres, 51, claims in a federal lawsuit that he requested a “religious accommodation” from the Lee County, North Carolina, Sheriff’s Office, where he was employed from 2012 to 2017, after he was ordered to train a female deputy. The training included “the requirement that he spend significant periods of time alone in his patrol car with the female officer trainee.”

A deacon at East Sanford Baptist Church in Sanford, North Carolina, Torres “holds the strong and sincere religious belief that the Holy Bible prohibits him, a married man, from being alone for extended periods of time with a female who is not his wife,” according to the lawsuit filed July 31 in US district court.

The practice of not being alone with a member of the opposite sex other than one’s spouse is called the Billy Graham Rule in honor of the late evangelist, who adopted the policy early in his ministry to avoid temptation and accusations of sexual immorality. While some say the practice demonstrates integrity and protects marriages, others claim it can be discriminatory.

According to Torres’s lawsuit, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office allegedly vacillated between granting and denying the requested accommodation for weeks before terminating Torres “without an explanation.” Torres also claims a colleague “failed to respond” to his call for backup at a “multi-vehicle accident in an unsafe area” because of the requested accommodation.

Howard Friedman, a University of Toledo law professor who blogs about religious liberty at Religion Clause, said he is unaware of any other court cases involving the Billy Graham Rule but noted Torres’s lawsuit “is part of the growing number of cases in which religious freedom clashes with non-discrimination norms.”

“This is a public official who is invoking religious free exercise to avoid carrying out a part of his employment duties,” Friedman said in an email to Christianity Today. “In that context, it is similar to the long-running Kim Davis saga in which a Kentucky court clerk refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

He also noted “a parallel” to a case in which Washington State pharmacists were ordered to dispense emergency contraception pills despite their religious objections.

Robbie Gibson, Torres’s pastor at East Sanford Baptist Church, told CT Torres is “a man who is genuinely trying to walk his faith out in everyday life.” The Graham Rule, he said, is the “best approach” for avoiding temptation and guarding against false accusations of impropriety. Still, after news of Torres’s lawsuit broke, the church’s Facebook page was inundated with negative comments, including some calling the congregation “bigots” and “oppressors of women.”

“You cannot live in a #MeToo world” and “then force people to act and live in such a way that they can be accused without any defense,” Gibson said, as when an employee is told, “I’m going to put you out alone all night long in a car with someone.”

Vice President Mike Pence and former Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Robert Foster are among public figures to draw critique for stating they follow the Billy Graham Rule. Pence faced criticism in 2017 after a Washington Post profile of his wife, Karen, claimed the vice president never eats alone with a woman who is not his wife. A reporter for Mississippi Todaysaid last month it was “sexist” for Foster to ask that a male colleague accompany her if she wanted to ride along with him on a campaign trip.

Despite criticism of Graham Rule adherents, a New York Times poll found most American women and nearly half of men think it is inappropriate to have dinner alone with someone of the opposite gender who is not their spouse. About a quarter of those polled found it inappropriate to have a work meeting alone with a colleague of the opposite gender.

Torres alleges religious discrimination against his former employer as well as two North Carolina police departments—the Apex Police Department and the Silver City Police Department—which supposedly did not hire him after the Lee County told them about his request for a religious accommodation.

The lawsuit asks the court to award Torres $300,000 in compensatory damages plus more than $15,000 in punitive damages. The defendants have yet to file their responses to the suit.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act “requires a reasonable accommodation” in cases like Torres’s, according to Friedman. Yet a female employee who was denied training due to the Billy Graham Rule might also have grounds to claim discrimination on the basis of sex if her trainer was given an exemption.

David Roach is a writer in Nashville, Tennessee.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/august/billy-graham-rule-sheriff-north-carolina-lawsuit.html

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Christianity, NC, the Mecklenburg Resolves and Freedom

By Dr. Mark Creech – May 19, 2019

Rev. Benjamin Morris was a Congregational minister, who lived from 1810 to 1867, pastored churches in Indiana and Ohio, and other places. When his health failed, he retired from ministry and moved to Washington, D.C.

Morris developed a deep concern that America was drifting from her spiritual moorings and spent a decade writing Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States. 

Morris’ book, which has been reprinted by American Vision, is 1060 pages of masterful documentation showing, as Archie P. Jones, says in the Forward, that:

“it was Christianity – not paganism, ‘religious neutrality,’ or secularism – which produced freedom and justice in the West and in America…He sought to give Christians and Americans a true vision of the hand of the Lord in our history and of the crucial, foundational place of Christianity in our civil government and public life…for the good of the people of the nation, for the cause of Christ, for the future, for Christian liberty and justice, and for the glory of God.”

One section of Morris’s work succinctly records the colonial history of North Carolina and the basis of her institutions on Christianity. He charts the movement of fugitives from Virginia seeking refuge from the “rigid, intolerant laws of that colony, which bore so heavily on all that could not conform to the ceremonies of the established Church” to the “Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, who formed so large a proportion of the people of North Carolina, and molded its religious and political character…”

Morris writes:

“The religious creed of these Christian immigrants formed a part of their politics so far as to lead them to decide that no law of human government ought to be tolerated in opposition to the expressed will of God. Their ideas of religious liberty have given a coloring to their political notions on all subjects – have been, indeed, the foundation of their political creed. The Bible was their text-book on all subjects of importance, and their resistance to tyrants was inspired by the free principles which it taught and enforced.”

Morris sites, as an example, the instructions given to the delegates of Mecklenburg County:

“which constituted the celebrated Mecklenburg Convention of North Carolina convened in 1775.”

The delegates were instructed to “assent and consent” to the Christian religion:

“as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament…to the exclusion forever of all and every other (falsely so-called) religion.”

Morris writes:

 “This political paper declares that the people of North Carolina believed the Bible, and from it drew their principles of morals, religion and polities. To abjure the Christian religion would have been, with them, to abjure freedom and immortality. They asserted in every political form the paramount authority of the Christian religion as the sole acknowledged religion of the state and community.”

During the Mecklenburg Convention, which met on the 15th of May, 1775, delegates also learned of the battle of Lexington, which precipitated the Mecklenburg Resolves five days later on May 20th.

The Mecklenburg Resolves would later become to be known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Its claim to fame is that it was the first declaration of Independence made by the Thirteen American Colonies during the Revolutionary War period. It was written a year before the United States Declaration of Independence.

Its original copy having been lost in a fire, the existence of The Mecklenburg Declaration is contested by some. But in 1829, the state legislature ordered a select committee to investigate and settle any controversy surrounding it. The committee heard compelling testimony from eye-witnesses who were said to be men beyond reproach. Many of these men were decorated Revolutionary War heroes, and two were ordained, Presbyterian ministers.

Although not acclaimed as it was by earlier North Carolinians, the state still recognizes The Mecklenburg Declaration. Its date is on the state flag and state seal. Its story was at one time printed in elementary school books and taught in public schools. Moreover, in 1881, the North Carolina General Assembly made May 20th a legal holiday to commemorate the Mecklenburg Declaration. Presidents William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Gerald Ford visited Charlotte to participate in “Meck Dec Day” celebrations.

Morris contends that the Mecklenburg Resolves were:

“a noble monument of the patriotism and piety of the people of North Carolina.”

Morris writes:

“The colony of North Carolina is particularly distinguished for the large number of able and patriotic ministers who were diligent laborers in the fields of intellectual and Christian culture and in sowing broadcast the seeds of liberty and of future independence…These men were the pioneers of freedom and independence, and in all the measure preparatory to the coming revolution they were the foremost leaders.”

Monday, May 20th, marks a historic day for North Carolina. North Carolina was first in freedom. And is it any surprise that the religion of the Great Emancipator, Jesus Christ, would be at the heart of it?

As seen here at Christian Action League of North Carolina. Posted here with permission.

 

Original here