May 5, 2007

Fired for Being an Atheist: Christian Extremism in the Workplace

Currently making the rounds on atheist blogs is this Associated Press story printed in the Boston Globe. The Maine Human Rights Commission has concluded that there are "reasonable grounds" to support a DeCoster farms manager's claim that he was fired because of his atheism.

In fact, it sounds like the manager, Cacy Cantwell, was told by his boss, Austin "Jack" DeCoster, that they might need to "part ways" because of Cantwell's lack of theistic belief.
Cantwell, who was provided housing he shared with a non-married partner, two of his children and three of her children, said he was criticized by DeCoster, a devout Christian, who didn't approve of the living arrangement.

On another occasion, DeCoster brought up God in a conversation, and Cantwell responded by saying he was an atheist and didn't believe in God.

Cantwell told the investigator that DeCoster put his hand on his shoulder and told him: "I can't have someone like you here. We might need to part ways."
Looks like a fairly clear employment discrimination case. It also strikes me as a case of Christian extremism, and reminds me how awful it can be for atheists to have to work for some Christian bosses. Now I'm bracing myself for a round of pundits arguing that Christian employers should have the right to fire non-Christians and that to prevent them from doing so is a violation of their free exercise of religion.

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