Archive for Friday, September 11, 2015

Kobach’s office acknowledges hosting Bible sessions but says worker was not fired for failing to attend

September 11, 2015, 1:33 p.m. Updated September 11, 2015, 6:08 p.m.

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— The Kansas secretary of state’s office acknowledged Friday in a court document that it sporadically hosts Bible study sessions, but denied firing an employee for not attending them.

The court filing comes in the office’s formal answer to the civil lawsuit that Courtney Canfield filed last month in U.S. District Court in Topeka. Canfield alleges she was terminated from her clerk’s job after declining to attend prayer services held in the office.

In its response, the state told the court that all were welcome to attend the Bible study, but no staff member was required to attend. It noted that the majority of the staff did not attend the sessions.

Canfield also contends in her lawsuit that invitations to the religious services at the office were distributed during normal business hours, and that they included a “prayer guide” to be used at that week’s meeting.

Kansas responded that it had “insufficient information” to determine whether the invitation was distributed during business hours, but said those who chose to attend were provided a devotional booklet to be used during the Bible study.

Canfield, who was hired in January 2013 as an accounts clerk, contends in her lawsuit that before Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker ousted her in November 2013, he “repeatedly and emphatically indicated a basis for her termination as the fact that, ‘She just doesn’t go to church.’”

Rucker denies in the court filing that he had any knowledge of Canfield’s religious habits while she was employed by the secretary of state’s office.

The state rejected the claim that Canfield was discriminated against because of her perceived lack of “religious zeal,” telling the court that she was fired due to her poor work performance and her inability to work productively with others.

Canfield’s attorney did not respond to email and phone messages Friday, and Canfield did not immediately respond to a phone message left with a relative.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach also did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

But Vickie Stangle, president of the Great Plains Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the hosting of Bible study sessions in the workplace by the Kansas secretary of state’s office “crosses the line.” She said employees feel peer pressure to participate even if are not required to attend.

Stangle said having the sessions creates the perception that government is promoting and endorsing a religion.

“I look at these places as places we are conducting public business and they are not supposed to be houses of worship, and yet it seems to be happening more and more under the guise of so-called religious freedom,” she said.

Comments

Stuart Evans 2 years, 4 months ago

No.. you may not use a state-owned office to host your little imagination party. It gives the appearance that it is sanctioned by the state, and generally makes those who do not conform to feel ostracized.

Lynn Grant 2 years, 4 months ago

I agree Stuart except for the imagination party bit.

Paul Beyer 2 years, 4 months ago

Maybe fairy tales would be more fitting name for this party?

Richard Heckler 2 years, 4 months ago

What's up with using tax dollar funded office space and time for a private venture?

We taxpayers need a resignation from Kobach STAT!

A man involved in violating building codes, illegal voter suppression and who knows what else is actually leading a bible/prayer session? i'd say this office should be treated to a audit retroactive to 4 years ago. I'm curious about how funding is being distributed.

If anyone is under the impression that I do not trust this individual that is absolutely correct.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 4 months ago

He means the ones he personally hired were screened, so they are the "right" kind of Christians, and he made sure to find a reason to get rid of anyone he didn't hire. I talked to woman who said she took early retirement from her state government job, because all departments are becoming this way. It's not just a Kobach thing. It's a Brownback thing. You need to research the Family, a group Brownback and probably Kobach belong to. They are a scary bunch who want to end our democracy and implement a theocracy.

Bob Forer 2 years, 4 months ago

Are they praying during work hours? They shouldn't be using state facilities for private religious functions. And they certainly should not be praying on our dime.

David Holroyd 2 years, 4 months ago

Do they not have enough work? That is the question!

What's next? The waitstaff at a restaurant stops and has bible study?

Mr Forer, maybe they are praying to keep their job.

Richard Crank 2 years, 4 months ago

Between his rural "agricultural building" disregard for established regulations and this seemingly very clear disregard for important court rulings about the separation of church and state, I don't understand how Mr. Kobach can keep his legal credentials. What a joke. I'd sure like to hear his explanation.

Renee Patrick 2 years, 4 months ago

You probably really don't want to hear it because it would make you feel more incredulous.

Jim Slade 2 years, 4 months ago

Atheist here.

I have no problems with state offices being used for prayer time. As long as it's open to all religions and not being promoted by the state.

I have no problem with employees attending a prayer sessions, as long as it falls during their designated break time.

Paul Beyer 2 years, 4 months ago

Sorry Jim, but I have a problem with any government owned building being used for any religious activity. Especially not during normal work hours. Too much intimidation for those not attending these "voluntary" meeting.

Jim Slade 2 years, 4 months ago

So no religious services for military members?

What constitutes a "religious activity"? If someone wants to pray on their lunch in a quiet space by themselves, does that count? What if their friend joins them? What number of people hits the mark that turns it into a "religious activity" that should be banned in your mind?

Paul Beyer 2 years, 4 months ago

Jim, don't think the military has anything to do with controversy. Civilian federal and state government agencies and offices are different. Also, common sense tells me no one has a problem with anyone's private prayers or their friends joining them. The problem is an organized, scheduled service in a specific place or office with an agenda passed out within any agency. That leads to intimidation of those who don't participate.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 4 months ago

I don't have any problem with them using facilities, but they need to pay rent. Schools rent out space to churches to meet on Sundays, but that space should also be made available, charging at least enough rent to cover the utilities and any janitorial staff needed, to any religion or group. And it should NEVER happen during work time, ever.

Phillip Chappuie 2 years, 4 months ago

In one of the previous articles about this it was stated that boss guy fellow went to Canfield's Momma's house and told her straight.up that the girl was going to be terminated because she didn't join the reindeer fun. I reckon that if Momma goes to depositions with this first hand account it will not bode well for team Kobach. This is a little off but I tried to watch the youtube of that debate on voter ID. Jeebus Kris is a terrible speaker. He couldn't place in an eighth grade forensics contest.

David Holroyd 2 years, 4 months ago

Is the bible study limited only to employees? It is a taxpayer owned building so I could attend?

Glenda Breese 2 years, 4 months ago

HMMM correct answer no? I hate pop quizzes.

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