A North Carolina deputy is alleging religious discrimination in a lawsuit against Siler City and Apex Police Departments, and Lee County Sheriff Tracy Lynn Carter.
Manuel Torres, formerly a deputy with the Lee County Sheriff's Office, said that he was fired because he refused to be alone with an unnamed female deputy for training purposes.
Torres, 51, said that he adheres to the so-called "Billy Graham Rule," which is a common practice among Christian male evangelicals who feel it is best to avoid being alone with women who are not their wives.
What are the details?
Torres, a deacon at East Sanford Baptist Church in Sanford, North Carolina, is seeking $300,000 in compensatory damages and $15,000 in punitive damages with his suit.
Torres alleges that he was fired in 2017 for refusing to train a female new hire.
Torres' suit notes that he asked for a religious exemption in 2017 to avoid the one-on-one training. His sergeant reportedly denied the exemption, so Torres said he escalated the issue to senior department officials. Torres claimed that his sergeant "alternately granted and denied" the requests, and ended up firing him two months later.
In the filing, Torres said that training female deputies on a one-on-one basis could give "the appearance of sinful conduct on his part."
A portion of the lawsuit reads, "Torres holds the strong and sincere religious belief that the Holy Bible prohibits him, as a married man, from being alone for extended periods with a female who is not his wife [and from] spend[ing] significant periods of time alone in his patrol car with the female officer trainee."
"Defendant LCSO fired Plaintiff because he continued to request a religious accommodation from a job duty that violated his sincerely held religious beliefs and complained about religious discrimination," the complaint adds.
The suit also alleges that the Siler City Police Department rescinded a job offer after hearing about Torres' termination, and that the Apex Police Department ignored Torres' requests for employment opportunities. Torres' suit insists that the Lee County Sheriff's Office gave negative referrals to area police departments so as to jeopardize his future employment.
According to the Charlotte Observer, a federal court will decide if the case amounts to discrimination.