- (Photo:Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
A teacher has claimed he was fired for giving a Bible to an inquisitive student at at New Jersey school, and has now filed a complaint against the school district for religious discrimination.
Walter Tutka was a long-time substitute teacher in Phillipsburg, NJ but was allegedly dismissed after being found guilty by the school of breaching two policies; distributing religious literature on school grounds, and not being "neutral" when discussing religious material with students.
It has now been reported that Liberty Institute and a New Jersey law firm have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office against the Phillipsburg School District.
Attorney for Tutka, Hiram Sasser, has told Fox News: "It is shocking that the school district is forcing Walt to file a complaint with the EEOC for religious discrimination. All Walt did was respond to a student's intellectual curiosity and the school district suspended Walt and then terminated him."
The teacher claims that the case stems from an incident that took place last October when his middle school students were coming into one of the school buildings. Tutka describes that as the students filtered in, one student was behind the others, and as he passed by the teacher quipped to him: "Just remember, son, the first shall be last but the last shall be first."
The line of course was being quoted from the Bible, where it appears numerous times including in Matthew 19:30 and Mark 10:31.
The student passed by into class without saying anything. However, a few days later that same student came to Tutka and asked where that saying had come from. The teacher explained, saying it was from the Bible.
The student then inquired about the verse again on Oct. 12 when Tutka was eating lunch in the school cafeteria . This time Tutka got out his Bible and showed him the verse. He also reportedly asked the student whether he had his own Bible, and when the student responded no, he gave the small pocket-sized Bible over to the student to keep.
Joe Imhof, a friend of Tutka's and a fellow Gideon, has said to Fox: "Walt basically said, 'would you like mine? The student said yes and so Walt gave him his personal New Testament."
The complaint explains that on Oct. 18, Superintendent George Chando informed Tutka that he was recommending the teacher's termination over the incident. Tutka goes on to claim that he was actually fired on Jan. 14, 2013.
Imhof added, "Just because this guy gave a student a pocket New Testament on his lunch hour – that's enough to throw you out of school. They have said tonight, 'God, we don't want you in this school.'"
Imhof also highlighted the apparent restrictive nature of American schools towards freedom of religion, and claims it has a hostility to religion not seen in most other countries: "In most countries overseas we are allowed to go into public schools and give Bibles to students. But since this is America – you can't do it here."
Speaking about his homeland, he added: "When the Soviet Union fell, Bibles were allowed in the schools, people could pray in the schools. It seems we have more persecution in America than they do in Russia."
Tutka's complaint reads: "I believe that I have been discriminated against in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and retaliated against regarding same," according to The Express-Times.
Tutka's pastor, Chris Hussey who leads the Abundant Life Community Church in NJ, has commented to Fox News: "I've never seen something so absurd in my life."
He concluded, "Christianity is under attack in America. It seems our government officials are afraid of Muslims and yet they capitulate to them and any other religious group. But when it comes to Christians – they are completely intolerant of Christians."