Courtney Canfield was hired part-time to the elections division of Kansas’s Secretary of State Office in January 2013. During that time, she received numerous invitations and guides to religious services held in the Secretary of State’s Office. Canfield is a Methodist, but she doesn’t go to church regularly. Canfield was promoted to full-time in June of 2013. Five months later in November, a co-worker complained Canfield was using the phone for personal reasons.
Assistant Secretary Rucker visited Canfield’s grandmother soon after the complaint was made. Canfield alleges that Rucker demanded Canfield’s grandmother terminate her own granddaughter because Canfield “just doesn’t go to church.” When Canfield’s grandmother refused, Rucker terminated Canfield himself. Canfield filed a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination and demanded $75,000 as compensation. The Secretary’s Office has denied the allegations and claims that Canfield was terminated for “poor performance.”
Protecting Christians From Each Other
Interestingly, both parties have a history of legal disputes. Canfield was the plaintiff in a 2012 lawsuit against another former employer, a car dealership. Canfield alleged that an employee with a prior rape conviction had groped her. Canfield alleged in 2012 that when she complained to her supervisor, she was terminated while the accused was promoted. On the other hand, Rucker was an attorney in Kansas’s attorney general office. In 2010, Rucker was censured by Kansas’s disciplinary board for failing to disclose evidence regarding an alleged abortion doctor Rucker had been prosecuting.
Kansas’s position appears to be extremely weak. If Canfield and other state employees kept the guides for the prayer services in the Secretary’s Office, that is direct evidence of a breach of the Constitution. Rucker alleges that Canfield was fired for poor performance, but that explanation is likely pretext. Employees who are performing poorly generally do not get promoted. Based solely on these facts, Canfield’s version of the story is more believable.
One interesting aspect of discrimination law is that the law focuses on the effect of alleged discrimination on the victim, not the identity of the perpetrator. In other words, it is fully possible for a person to discriminate against members of the same group that person belongs to. Black people can discriminate against black people, men can discriminate against men, and Christians can discriminate against Christians. This doesn’t mean that only Christians can discriminate against Christians. Certainty non-Christians can discriminate against Christians. However, the worst fights often occurs in-house.
That’s what Canfield is claiming. Christians can discriminate against other Christians for not going to church enough. This is why separation of church and state is essential. The founding fathers were well aware of the interfaith conflicts that Christianity had in Europe shortly before they cut ties with Britain. Separation of church and state does not mean discrimination against Christians. Separation means that all groups, including Christians, will not be forced to pray simply because the government demands it.