Trial to Begin for Fired Intern Who Shared Faith

A court battle over an intern's right to free speech was scheduled to begin Tuesday after she was fired from her job for sharing her faith during non-work hours.

Represented by attorneys with Watkins & Casaudoumecq, LLP, a general civil litigation firm in Costa Mesa, former graduate student at California State University-Long Beach (CSULB) Jacqueline Escobar will go to court over a lawsuit she filed against CSULB and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) that claims she was wrongly fired over religious reasons.

"Freedom of religion is the first and most fundamental constitutional right," commented attorney Daniel R. Watkins of Watkins & Casaudoumecq, in a statement. "Unfortunately, as this case illustrates, religious beliefs are under assault from every sector of government. It is our intent to ensure that people of faith working in government are afforded the protections our Founding Fathers intended."

Escobar was working with DCFS as an intern children's social worker, and was given the job, in part, for her straight-A record. Her employers confronted the former CSULB graduate when they found that she had been sharing her Christian faith during lunch breaks and after hours and putting on a shirt that read "Found" after she had signed out for the day.

Both the DCFS and the CSULB collaborated together and came up with a "performance contract" that would ask that Escobar refrain from communicating her faith to others, even during non-working hours. Her managers asked for her to sign the document, and when the intern refused, she was terminated from her position.

"Through this case, we hope to send a powerful message to government employers: you cannot trounce upon the First Amendment rights of people of faith and expect to get away with it," expressed Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, which Watkins & Casaudoumecq is affiliated with. "Needless to say, we are glad to have one of our top affiliate attorneys, Dan Watkins, spearheading this case."

The trial is scheduled for Tuesday, Apr. 3, unless a last minute settlement comes about.