Amazing that something as simple as going to church with the very same people you are trying to help out in your job can cause any angst at all. It’s a crying shame.
This from Evangelical News:
Agencies Sued For Firing Case Worker Who Let Juvenile Offenders Attend His Church
TAMPA, Florida – Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit today in federal court on behalf of Dennis Hughes against a youth services agency that terminated him when he refused to stop allowing troubled teens in its program to attend his church and church-sponsored activities. Also named in the lawsuit is the agency that manages the program and orchestrated his dismissal, the University Area Community Development Corporation (UACDC).
Hughes was a case manager for Bay Area Youth Service (BAYS) in the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program, a program which provides case management services to juvenile offenders. If a juvenile enrolls in and completes the program, the State’s criminal charges are dropped. BAYS receives virtually all of its annual revenue from the State of Florida. The program essentially operates as an arm of the State, but Florida has no law forbidding church leaders from attending functions with juvenile offenders in State programs.
For several years BAYS accommodated Hughes’ religious activities during his free time, while he served first as youth pastor then as assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel of Tampa. During that time, some of the juveniles under his supervision voluntarily attended church services and sports activities sponsored by Calvary Chapel. One of the activities was held at the University Area Community Center Complex. UACDC, which also manages the Community Center, objected to the religious content of the Calvary Chapel youth activities, banned the activities from the Center and insisted Hughes end his participation.
Since UACDC also funds and manages the Prodigy program, BAYS adopted a policy that juveniles in the program could not attend any event where Hughes was present, even though no problems had ever arisen with the juveniles because of the church events. BAYS terminated Hughes, although he had excellent performance reviews, only because he would not agree to either stop attending his church or prohibit juveniles in the program from attending.
After Hughes was terminated, BAYS sent him its newly adopted policy, stating that staff members are not allowed to “oversee, supervise, coach, mentor, counsel, or recreate with any active program youth or families as part of any outside activity or organization.” The policy is so broad that it prevents any church leader or youth activities volunteer from working in the juvenile program, because the leader would have to either leave a church meeting or make a juvenile and their family leave. It even prevents church leaders from attending the same church or participating in any church-related activity with a family member.
Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “This policy requires youth workers to either leave church or ban juvenile offenders and their family members from attending any church-sponsored event, no matter the size or location of the activity. Must a pastor or church member who is also a youth worker exit the back door when a juvenile offender enters the front door? Under this policy, the answer is yes. This policy is too broad to withstand a legal challenge.”