Two years after substitute teacher Walter Tutka was removed from the classroom in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, for giving a Bible to a student, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that the school district violated the law with its termination of the educator.
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The EEOC, the government body that handles claims of workplace discrimination, found that there was cause to believe that the Phillipsburg School District discriminated against Tutka in its handling of the matter, according to conservative commentator Todd Starnes.
TheBlaze first covered Tutka's story in December 2012, reporting that the substitute teacher had come under fire for reportedly quoting from the Bible to a student who was last in line before leaving the classroom. He said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (found in Matthew 20:16).
Curious, the student reportedly asked numerous times where the statement originated, so the substitute teacher allegedly showed the pupil, using his personal copy of the New Testament; he then gave the book to the student as a “gift.”
At the time, Tutka was accused in a letter from the district superintendent of breaking two district policies: a provision that bans staff members from handing out religious literature and another that asks staff to be neutral in how they approach sectarian issues, according to the Express-Times.
But the school district reportedly maintained that the distribution of religious materials was not the reason for the termination and that Tutka was let go due to insubordination. That said, the EEOC examined available evidence and concluded otherwise.
"Given these circumstances and absent adequate documentation to support its defense, the commission must conclude that more credibility should be assigned to charging party's contention that religion and retaliation played a factor in his termination rather than respondent's proffered defense that legitimate, non0discriminatory reasons were used," read a letter from the EEOC issued December 15.
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The Liberty Institute, a conservative legal firm, is applauding the decision.
"This is a great indication the EEOC is taking religious liberty seriously and they are going to enforce the law — and in this case make sure Walt’s rights are protected," Hiram Sasser, a lawyer with the group, told Starnes. "This sends a message to school districts that their natural allergic reaction to religion is misplaced, and not only is it wrong — but it’s also an egregious violation of the law."
Both parties will now try to seek reconciliation of the matter, the EEOC letter concluded.
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