Maine Atheist Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against Sporting Goods Store, Claiming Boss Forced Religious Beliefs

An atheist from Gardiner, Maine is suing his previous employer for religious discrimination, alleging that his supervisor at the local Olympia Sports store pressured him to attend her church and become a Christian.

Atheist Jason Rines filed his lawsuit in the Androscoggin County Superior Court this week, alleging that his former supervisor at the Olympia Sports store in Lewiston was very vocal about her Christian faith, and even pressured him to attend her church. Ultimately, Rines states in the lawsuit that the continued pressure forced him to quit his job at the sporting goods store.

The lawsuit points to Lori Brooks, the store's supervising manager who began working at the Lewiston location in October 2012. "Brooks began to interject her religious beliefs into conversations with [Rines] during work hours at the store," reads the plaintiff's complaint, according to the Sun Journal. "Brooks made it clear to [Rines] that she was devoutly Christian and that her religion plays a paramount role in her life."

As the Sun Journal reports, pressure on Rines continued to mount after he had revealed to Brooks that he was an atheist. The complaint alleges that Brooks then began hiring people from her church to work at the store, and Rines began to feel very uncomfortable in the professional setting.

The complaint claims things reached a turning point when money from Brooks' purse went missing while it was stored in the break room. Alhough Rines claims to have not taken the money, he says in the complaint that Brooks told his coworkers that he had stolen the cash.

Shortly after the money incident took place, Brooks' pastor reportedly arrived at the store around Christmas time and gave Rines a Christian CD and a book written by a "former atheist."

Rines argues in his lawsuit that these incidences amount to religious discrimination under the Maine Human Rights Commission. The plaintiff is seeking lost wages, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged worker discrimination.

According to the Associated Press, a lawyer representing Olympia Sports has yet to comment on the legal complaint.

This most recent complaint comes after four major secular organizations in the U.S. came together in May to form Openly Secular, a coalition that seeks to promote secularism and atheism in an effort to end discrimination against nonbelievers. Members of the group include the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the Secular Coalition for America, the Secular Student Alliance and the Stiefel Freethought Foundation.

"Our mission is to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance by getting atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and all nonreligious people to be open about their beliefs," Todd Stiefel, chair for the Openly Secular coalition and founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, said in a statement regarding the coalition. "By being open about our beliefs and values, we can show that we, like all people, are worthy of love and kindness undeterred by religious differences."