Colorado State Worker Files Complaint, Says She Was Forced to Attend Lunch-Time Bible Study

A state worker in Colorado has filed an official complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division claiming she was forced to attend a lunch-hour Bible study while working at the Department of Education.

Theresa Chavez claimed in the recent complaint that during her time working at the Colorado Department of Education's Office of Professional Services and Educator Licensure, she was required to attend the bi-weekly Bible study sessions held by her supervisor, Norma Lawanson. The meetings reportedly took place every Wednesday and Thursday and Chavez claims that when she told Lawanson she wanted to stop attending the studies, she was punished.

"She told her supervisor that she no longer wanted to attend the studies, and things just went downhill from there," Chavez's attorney, Jennifer Robinson, told the local Denver 9WTK News for their investigative report on the alleged incident. "The Bible studies were on state property, at work, during work hours [and] using state resources."

According to 9WTK News, the Colorado Civil Rights Division has yet to act on Chavez's complaint. The state's Department of Education reportedly denies any wrongdoing in Chavez's claims, saying that had Lawanson been asked to cease religious discussion with Chavez, she would have complied.

Lawsuits regarding religious expression in the workplace are common, although many times they have to do with incidences regarding religious discrimination. For example, in October, an employee for the city of Portland filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court claiming she was harassed by her co-workers for her Christian beliefs. The woman, KellyMarie Griffin, who works for Portland Parks & Recreation, claims that coworkers told her they were "tired of her Christian attitude."

Griffin ultimately won her lawsuit, and the city of Portland was forced to pay her $19,000. The jury agreed that Griffin's work environment was hostile toward her religious beliefs.

In another case, a bus driver for Rutgers University in New Jersey said he was forced from his job for reportedly praying and laying his hands over a disabled student. Students and commenters on social media rallied around the bus driver to protest his termination, but ultimately the company who fired him argued he was let go for a safety violation.