By Jorge Gomez
First Liberty—along with attorneys Aaron Streett and Elisabeth Butler from Baker Botts LLP and the Church State Council—are defending Fire Chief Ron Hittle, a devout Christian who sought to live out his faith in the workplace. After 24 years of service, the city of Stockton, California fired him for attending a leadership conference that took place at a church.
This week, our legal teams filed a brief on his behalf at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We argued that the city’s actions are unlawful under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects against religious discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This law makes clear that businesses cannot discharge or take adverse action against employees on the basis of their religion.
Chief Hittle’s case adds to a growing list of major legal battles First Liberty is fighting to protect religious employees. Religious discrimination in the workplace is a major issue, especially in this time of extreme “woke” cancel culture when corporations continue to defy the law by punishing, demoting, harassing and firing workers over their beliefs and convictions. The outcome of these cases will affect every employed person of faith and their protection under the law.
Under Fire for His Faith
Ron Hittle served his community as a firefighter for more than two decades. When he became Fire Chief in 2006, he did his best to improve the department and lead his staff effectively.
More than a decade ago, the Deputy City Manager asked Chief Hittle to attend leadership training. Chief Hittle learned about the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit from a business magazine, and he decided to attend because it was a renowned leadership seminar that featured a “pop up business school” with stellar speakers from various backgrounds including his own Christian worldview. Chief Hittle invited three of his staff members who shared his Christian faith to join him, and he put his attendance on the public city calendar so his supervisors would be aware. The firefighters paid for the two-day seminar with their own funds.