Thursday, November 24, 2016

Court Says Teacher Was Not Fired Because of His Religious Beliefs

In Diss v. Portland Public Schools, (D OR, Nov. 22, 2016), an Oregon federal magistrate judge granted summary judgment to defendants in a suit by former public school teacher William Diss who claims that he was fired because of his religious beliefs.  Diss, a devout Catholic, was active in the anti-abortion movement. When his school principal arranged for representatives of a federally-funded Teen Outreach Program to speak to students in various classes, Diss would not allow them to speak to his students because the outreach program was administered by the local Planned Parenthood organization. Diss pointed to this and to the principal's asking him to refrain from using religious phrases such as "God bless" in professional communications as evidence of violation of his First Amendment rights.  However, the court concluded:
Defendants have shown that they had valid, non-discriminatory reasons to discipline and terminate Plaintiff.  The record contains multiple reports from administrators and colleagues describing Plaintiff's ineffective and rigid teaching style, as well as a pattern of complaints about Plaintiff's disrespectful and demeaning conduct towards his students, colleagues, and administrators.