Attorneys with a Christian legal firm plan to appeal a recent ruling against a Christian counselor who was laid off after she referred a lesbian to another counselor.
"A counselor who is a Christian shouldn't lose her job for upholding the highest professional standards," said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Brian Raum on Friday.
U.S. District Judge Julie E. Carnes last week rejected the lawsuit filed by Marcia Walden of Atlanta, Ga., and ruled that she cannot establish a case of religious discrimination.
Walden was one of four Employee Assistance Program counselors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In August 2007, a CDC employee met with Walden for an initial counseling session.
The employee, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, said she had been in a same-sex relationship for 18 years, had an 8-year-old son, and recently learned that her partner forged her name in order to obtain lines of credit. She became emotional during the course of the session.
After hearing what kind of counseling the employee was seeking, Walden informed Doe that she couldn't provide the requested counseling because it would conflict with her values and therefore, it would not be fair to the potential client for her to counsel Doe.
Doe agreed to meet with another counselor and Walden referred her to a colleague who was available.
Later, however, Doe complained to the EAP director. The CDC employee testified that she felt "judged and condemned" by Walden because of the manner and timing of her explanation as to why she could not counsel her.
Walden was advised by her directors to use other methods when referring employees to other counselors without mentioning her religious objections or personal values. But Walden refused to be dishonest to those seeking counseling.
She was subsequently fired.
"It is unlawful to punish Marcia for following her Christian faith, particularly when she made every effort to accommodate the needs of a potential client," said Raum. "Referring her to another competent counselor instead of attempting to offer her own counsel in such a situation was the ethical thing to do for the person seeking help. It's egregious to be fired for honoring professional and ethical obligations, and we regret the court didn't see this.
"We will certainly appeal."