NY Federal Court Rules Against Right To Religious Freedom

A federal appellate court in New York ruled on Monday that the firing of Raymond Zdunski, a New York man who refused to attend a pro-LGBTQ training session, was legal. Zdunski sought reinstatement, back pay, and $10 million in damages. However, the courts have sided with his employer, the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), claiming that Zdunski was not a victim of “unlawful religious discrimination.”

This ruling seems to disregard the fundamental right to religious freedom in the United States. Zdunski, a devout Christian, argued that the LGBTQ training aimed to change his religious beliefs about gender and sexuality. However, his employer denied his request for religious accommodation, leading to his dismissal.

While the Dignity for All Students Act requires diversity training for educational institutions, the lack of religious accommodation in Zdunski’s case is concerning. Zdunski was an account clerk working on spreadsheets in a cubicle. The training was not directly related to his job requirements. By forcing him to attend the training, BOCES disregarded his sincerely held religious beliefs.

Zdunski’s attorney, Kristina Heuser, has vowed to seek redress from the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that her client’s rights were violated for no other reason than his refusal to be indoctrinated with anti-Biblical teaching. The case raises fundamental questions about the balance between promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and respecting religious freedom.

The United States was founded on the principle of religious freedom, and recent events indicate that people of the Christian faith are increasingly discriminated against. By denying Zdunski’s request for religious accommodation, BOCES effectively forced him to choose between his faith and his livelihood. This approach is at odds with the spirit of religious freedom. It sets a dangerous precedent for other cases involving religious beliefs and workplace requirements.

As workplaces continue to push for DEI, ensuring that individuals’ rights to religious freedom are not compromised is essential. Companies should try to find a balance between promoting an inclusive environment and respecting the religious beliefs of their employees. In Zdunski’s case, a more reasonable approach could have been to provide alternative training or accommodations that would have allowed him to maintain his religious convictions.

A recent study by Revelio Labs, which found that companies are cutting DEI jobs at a higher rate than non-DEI positions, may indicate the challenges faced in implementing these initiatives. It is crucial for organizations to recognize the importance of respecting the rights of all employees, including those with deeply held religious beliefs, as they work to create a more diverse and inclusive environment.