A Christian contract engineer is suing his employer, and the Ford Motor Company, after they dropped him from an automotive design job.
The engineer, Thomas Banks of Ypsilanti, Michigan, is claiming discrimination after he criticized Ford’s support of LGBTI rights.
Banks, via his Troy-based employer Rapid Global Business Solutions, had been on assignment at Ford’s Dearborn plant in Michigan for three and a half years.
In July 2014, Banks read an article on Ford’s intranet concerning its efforts to create a more pro-LGBT environment within the organization and celebrating the 20th anniversary of its GLOBE employee resource group.
Banks left a comment on the article saying that he regarded Ford’s stance as an ‘assault’ on morality.
‘Endorsing and promoting sodomy is of benefit to no one,’ he commented.
‘This topic is disruptive to the workplace and is an assault on Christians and morality, as well as antithetical to our design and our survival. Immoral sexual conduct should not be a topic for an automotive manufacturer to endorse or promote.’
‘Never in the history of mankind has a culture survived that promotes sodomy. Heterosexual behavior creates life – homosexual behavior leads to death.’
Banks was summoned to a meeting two weeks later. He confirmed that he had written the comment. He was told that he had violated Ford’s anti-harassment policy and his employment was being terminated. Rapid Global also fired him.
‘I was stunned to realize that I was fired over expressing my faith in a single comment,’ Banks said in a statement at the time.
Ford countered by saying: ‘Ford’s anti-harassment policy was created to foster a respectful, inclusive work environment for all, and we expect employees and agency personnel to act in accordance with this policy.’
Following the termination of his contract, a complaint was filed in January 2015 on Banks’ behalf by the non-profit Liberty Institute (‘Restoring Religious Liberty in America’) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC decided not to pursue the complaint and notified Banks of its decision in April. He has now launched his federal lawsuit against Rapid Global Business Solutions and Ford.
He says his civil rights were violated because he was fired after speaking up in defense of his religious beliefs.
He is seeking damages for religious discrimination and retaliation under federal civil rights law – arguing that an employer cannot fire or discriminate against an individual because of their religion.
The lawsuit says that Banks is a ‘committed Christian and has, at all times pertinent to this Complaint, maintained sincerely held religious beliefs regarding sexuality and human flourishing.’
It indicates that Banks’ views were formed through ‘Biblical statements as well as scientific research on life expectancy from the Centers of Disease Control, among others.’
It goes on to say that, ‘Banks has no objection to workplace inclusiveness policies in general and supports a diverse and inclusive workplace … Banks respects others, even those who disagree with him, as he has throughout his career, and merely hopes for the same respect in return.’
At the time that the issue came before the EEOC, reports Huffington Post, Rapid Global supervisor Kelsey Rossi acknowledged that Banks’ comment was an expression of his religious convictions, but that ‘the tone of the comment … was discrimination in and of itself and that’s not something that we can protect.’
A spokesperson for Ford told Gay Star Business: ‘As we have not yet seen the complaint, we are not in a position to comment on it.’
In a statement to Gay Star Business, a spokesperson for Rapid Global said, ‘RGBSI is an equal opportunity employer that supports an inclusive work environment and respects the rights of all individuals. We have no comment as to the particular facts of this case since this is a pending legal matter.’
Image: Dave Parker | CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons