Lawsuit: Baptist Deputy Was Fired For Religious Beliefs, 'Billy Graham Rule'

Former Lee County Sheriff's Deputy Manuel Torres said he was fired after he said he couldn't train a female deputy.

Sanford, NC – A former Lee County sheriff’s deputy has filed a lawsuit against his former employer and two other law enforcement agencies that alleged he was discriminated and retaliated against for invoking the “Billy Graham Rule” and refusing to spend extended time alone with a female deputy.

Former Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Torres, 51, has claimed in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in North Carolina federal court that the problem started when he was asked to train a new female deputy, The Charlotte Observer reported.

The lawsuit said the training would have required then-Deputy Torres to “spend significant periods of time alone in his patrol car with the female officer trainee,” which was something that the deputy just didn’t do.

“Torres holds the strong and sincere religious belief that the Holy Bible prohibits him, as a married man, from being alone for extended periods with a female who is not his wife,” the lawsuit explained.

In July of 2017, Deputy Torres, a Southern Baptist who sometimes serves as a deacon at East Sanford Baptist Church, told his sergeant that he couldn’t train the female deputy and asked for a religious exemption, FOX News reported.

But his sergeant denied the request, The Charlotte Observer reported.

He took his complaint higher up the chain of command and his sergeant retaliated by not sending backup as requested “in an unsafe area in which Torres had to tase two fighting suspects, and a gun was present on the scene,” the lawsuit claimed.

The lawsuit alleged that a superior officer “expressed his anger” at Deputy Torres’ repeated requests for religious accommodation in September of 2017, and then less than a week later, the deputy was fired, The Charlotte Observer reported.

“Defendant LCSO fired Plaintiff because he continued to request a religious accommodation from a job duty that violated his sincerely held religious beliefs and complained about religious discrimination,” the lawsuit said.

But the lawsuit said it wasn’t over when Torres left the Lee County Sheriff’s Office because the department had spread the word about the former deputy’s religious exemption requests.

He said he was discriminated against when the Siler City Police Department rescinded a conditional offer of employment and that the Apex Police Department failed to even respond to his inquiries about employment, The Charlotte Observer reported.

The complaint asked for $300,000 in compensatory damages for “loss of income and benefits; loss of quality and enjoyment of life; (and) loss of reputation.”

The former deputy has also sued for $15,000 in punitive damages.

The police agencies named in the complaint either failed to respond to requests for comment or said they would not comment on pending litigation, according to The Charlotte Observer.

The timing of the lawsuit was interesting because a Mississippi gubernatorial candidate has been under fire recently after he invoked the “Billy Graham Rule” and refused to allow a female reporter to shadow him for a day without bringing along a male colleague.

The reporter complained that GOP Mississippi State Representative Robert Foster’s campaign said “they believed the optics of the candidate with a woman, even a working reporter, could be used in a smear campaign to insinuate an extramarital affair," Business Insider reported.

Foster argued that allegation and said he had made the refusal because of his faith.

"The liberal left lost their minds over the fact I choose not to be alone with another woman,” he tweeted. “They can't believe, that even in 2019, someone still values their relationship with their wife and upholds their Christian Faith."

Civil rights attorneys have speculated that the candidate’s campaign bus isn’t exempt from federal anti-discrimination laws, Business Insider reported.

Vice President Mike Pence has also been faulted for following Christian principles in doing his job.

The Vice President was heavily criticized after he revealed, during a 2002 interview, that he never dines alone with a woman who is not his wife and that he avoids attending events where alcohol is served without his spouse, Business Insider reported.

Comments (69)
No. 1-11
flybynight
flybynight

Sorry, if you were lgbqwxyz or any person of color they would bend over backwards for you and make every allowance, but a Christian? Forget about it. 🙏

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

How is training a woman dishonoring your wife? And where in the Bible does it say that a man shouldn't spend extended amounts of time with another woman?

Christians, ironically, know their holy book the absolute least. Ask a Jew or Muslim about their books, they will rattle off verse and chapter of what they're referencing. Christians? "WELL THE PASTOR SAID IT SO IT MUST BE TRUE"

Jim H. - Virginia US
Jim H. - Virginia US

Sorry, but even if you are a Muslim female police officer, you need to be able to put your hands on the opposite gender. If you can't, you should not be a police officer.

There are plenty of other professions.

Justretired
Justretired

We have 2 of 3 asshats commenting, wonder where the 3rd is?

flybynight
flybynight

See, told you the a$$hat brigade would check in. Need those $oro$ bucks. 🤑

Got A Warrant
Got A Warrant

Only slightly off topic - does the Billy Graham rule hold in the other direction? Say, could this guys wife spend time alone with a man?

JACQUEWB
JACQUEWB

He needs to drop that law suit and find him a job working in Wal-Mart

vwiles34
vwiles34

Any police officer should know they might be partnered with a female or other person they may feel uncomfortable with. If it is something that's a deal-breaker. Choose another career or put your feelings aside and do the job. Though I found one thing disturbing if true. If in retaliation his sergeant held back on sending backup in a dangerous situation. His ass should be fired and blackballed from law enforcement as well. Sticking to your beliefs is one thing, but putting another officer in danger is quite another. And I can't say it can't happen because I was riding with an officer who did that to a female officer once.

maksdaddy09
maksdaddy09

This is absolutely ridiculous... Yes he's a Christian but this isn't a fruitful lawsuit. What happens if a gunshot victim is shot in a sensitive area? Or what if a female victim of a violent crime doesn't want to be left alone and his presence is helping her stay calm?

Excalibr4
Excalibr4

"The liberal left" You were a cop, you fucking moron! You didn't get fired because you were Christian or conservative. You are a pussywhipped bitch, who lets his wife wear the pants in the family. Disgrace to law enforcement and Christians in general. I wish I could be there when your attorney tells the judge you religion doesn't think you can keep it in your pants, working with a female.

Heidelberg
Heidelberg

Under EEOC, an employer does not have to give accommodations under religious beliefs, if such accommodation will cause undue hardship. Example : (1) Costs to be considered include not only direct monetary costs but also the burden on the conduct of the employer’s business. (2) Undue hardship where the accommodation diminishes efficiency in other jobs, infringes on other employees’ job rights or benefits, impairs workplace safety, or causes co-workers to carry the accommodated employee’s share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work. The Deputy, being a public officer he has to in his duties deal with all kinds of people and that includes women. How would it work if he handcuffed her and put her in his patrol car ? . Will he be by himself with the arrested woman ? . Will he call for backup, due to his strong religious beliefs ? . Will he request a witness when an officer female is talking to him anywhere or office? . That it self is undue hardship to his co-workers and burdensome work. Also, he was harassing his employer for religious accommodations multiple times, resulting in a hostile work environment. Furthermore, his request for religious accommodations will transgress the employer to commit discrimination against the female officer and that it self is against, The Title VII. He just lost his case. He failed to complied with his duties and was the reason for his firing. To claim retaliation case, he most prove evidentiary support and most important the time line the retaliation took place ( from the beginning to end ) including false statement or referrals against him that was given to prospective employers. If he can provide all evidentiary support that his former employer gave false statement, then there is probability to win a case under retaliation base on “ill will”. If Deputy can’t put aside his strong religious beliefs from his duties, he should not serve the public as he will cause due harm. Find another field.