(Photo: billygrahamlibrary.org via The Christian Post)
A federal court has ruled in favor of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association against a suit brought by a former employee alleging racial discrimination.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina Charlotte Division ruled on Friday that the BGEA did not racially discriminate when they fired Kimberly McCallum, an administrative assistant who was at the time the only African-American employed at the executive offices.
"In conclusion, a jury could not reasonably find or infer that discrimination was a motivating factor in any of the challenged employment decisions of BGEA," wrote Richard Voorhees, U.S. District Judge.
"Moreover, because this Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to provide sufficient evidence suggesting BGEA engaged in racial discrimination for purposes of Title VII and Section 1981, Plaintiff's claim for discrimination in violation of North Carolina Public Policy lacks merit and is similarly insufficient."
Brent Rinehart, manager at the Public and Media Relations division for BGEA, provided The Christian Post with a statement regarding the decision.
"We are pleased with the court's decision and hopeful that it will allow all parties involved to focus elsewhere," read the statement.
In June 2009, former employee Kimberly McCallum filed a suit against the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association over allegations of racial discrimination. McCallum claimed that the BGEA was not reaching out to African-American churches and that not long after raising such concerns she had her administrative assistant position cut. The case was moved to federal court in September of that year.
BGEA spokesman Mark DeMoss rejected the claims of discrimination, telling The Associated Press that the claim of racial discrimination was "preposterous" and that "the opposite is quite true."
In August 2011, Judge Voorhees rejected a motion by BGEA to dismiss the suit, as the evangelical organization had tried to argue that the cutting of McCallum was within the "ministerial exception" as a religious organization. However, Voorhees did dismiss the allegation in McCallum's suit that her firing was a Title VII retaliation.
"McCallum never voiced any opposition while she was still employed at BGEA such that BGEA could retaliate," wrote Voorhees.
"Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff contends BGEA retaliated against her in any other respect, Plaintiff did not oppose or participate in a Title VII investigation, proceeding, or hearing during the relevant time period."
In last week's decision, Voorhees wrote that BGEA had stated that McCallum's firing had nothing to do with racial discrimination but rather a need to reduce their workforce.
"Here, Plaintiff has shown that, as an African American, she is a member of a protected class and that she suffered an adverse employment action because her BGEA position was eliminated," wrote Voorhees.
"Plaintiff fails to demonstrate that BGEA did not treat race neutrally when deciding to eliminate her Global Ministries position … The record amply supports BGEA's legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation."
McCallum was represented by John W. Gresham, Esq. from Tin Fulton Walker & Owen PLLC. Gresham did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.