CHICAGO — Wal-Mart was within its rights to fire a Joliet store employee who told a lesbian co-worker that she would go to hell because God does not accept gays, and the dismissal was not religious discrimination, a federal appeals court has ruled.
Tanisha Matthews began working as an overnight stocker at the Joliet Wal-Mart in 1996, according to court documents. In September 2005, during a break in the shift, Matthews took part in a conversation about God and homosexuality.
Wal-Mart fired Matthews after concluding she had engaged in behavior that violated the company’s Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy. The policy, which the court said Matthews was aware of at the time of the incident, prohibits employees from engaging in conduct that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment based on an individual’s status, including sexual orientation, and says they can be fired for such conduct.
I have always been a strong advocate for religious freedom. I realize that over the years those rights have eroded, and I am always sad to see it happen. But I despise it when religion is used as a hammer to take away from others, and that's what happened here. Her comments were inappropriate and completely voluntary. Religious freedom doesn't override common decency and fair treatment, and it's disappointing when this type of thing happens. Matthews was not fired for her beliefs, only for choosing to demonstrate them at the expense of another human being. This happened in 2005, so it was a decision that was long overdue.
I'm 100% on Wal-Mart's side. I'm going to go hug some kittens or something. I feel so... dirty.