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Court condones expression of faith.

In 2001, the dress code policy for employees of Kentucky's Logan County Public Library system read: "No clothing depicting religious, political, or potentially offensive decoration is permitted."

Kimberly Draper, a library employee, was accustomed to wearing a cross pendant on a necklace as an expression of her Christian faith. In early April 2001, a supervisor claimed that the necklace violated the dress code and ordered Draper to remove it. She refused. On April 16, 2001, after several additional warnings, she was fired.

The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm specializing in constitutional law. filed suit on Draper's behalf in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green on February 1, 2002. On September 2 of this year, the court ruled, in a decision written by U.S District Judge Thomas B. Russell, that the library's policy unconstitutionally violates both the free speech and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. The court concluded that it is "simply beyond credibility that an employee's personal display of a cross pendant, a star of David, or some other minor, unobtrusive religious symbol on her person would interfere with the library's purpose." It found the library policy to be based upon nothing more than "undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance [which] is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression."

In a press release, ACLJ senior counsel Frank Manion described Draper's firing as both absurd and unconstitutional. He lauded the "very important" district court decision because, among other things, it "underscores the fact that employees have constitutional rights to express their faith in the workplace so long as that expression does not interfere with the work setting," and it places employers on notice that they "cannot discriminate against employees who choose to express their religions beliefs" in such a manner.
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Title Annotation:Making A Difference
Author:Lee, Robert W.
Publication:The New American
Date:Nov 17, 2003
Words:303
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