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By Audrey Vestal
First Liberty Institute

A county government is demanding that a Christian employee raise a Pride flag every day as part of his job duties.

Captain Jeffery Little works for Los Angeles County Fire Department as a lifeguard. He’s an evangelical Christian with sincerely-held beliefs about gender and sexuality. Therefore, when LA County passed a resolution requiring the Pride flag be flown at county facilities during the month of June, Captain Little requested a religious accommodation.

His request? Let another employee raise the flag. Los Angeles initially said “No.”

To make matters worse, Captain Little’s supervisor allegedly diminished and demeaned his beliefs. He says he was told that his “religious beliefs do not matter” because he is “an LA county employee; that’s the only thing that matters.” That’s clearly incorrect, and flagrantly discriminatory.

Our friends at the Thomas More Society jumped inThey filed suit last month alleging that the government violated his constitutional rights.

The county responded last week by granting a partial accommodation, saying Little would not be personally responsible for the raising or lowering of the Pride flag. He would either be assigned to stations where the flag isn’t flown or be able to trade shifts to those stations.

But that still isn’t a full and complete religious accommodation, according to his lawyers. For example, the Fire Department insists that Captain Little must still ensure that his subordinates comply with the mandate.

“My hope is that this lawsuit encourages productive dialogue between employees of faith and their employers,” Little said in a statement. “No employee should be expected to abandon their faith when entering the workplace and unfortunately, I felt backed into a corner where my faith was incompatible with the requirements of my job. My prayer is that people of faith will flourish in the workplace and not feel as if they need to hide that part of themselves in order to be successful in their jobs.”

LA County’s treatment of Captain Little defies what the U.S. Supreme Court held just last year in First Liberty’s landmark victory, Groff v. DeJoy.

That ruling clarified the legal standard for religious accommodation at work. It held that employers are required to accommodate religious employees under federal law unless doing so would substantially increase costs for the business—which is a big change from how courts used to interpret the law.

With this landmark victory and clear direction from the Supreme Court, we might be inclined to think that employers would follow suit.

Sadly, this is not always the case. This is just the latest in a slew of cases alleging discrimination against religious workers.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that charges of religious discrimination in the workplace have remained steady—despite stronger legal protections for religious accommodations.

Look at the cases that First Liberty is fighting right now for religious employees. Our client, Fire Chief Hittle, found his faith under fire when he was given the axe for attending a leadership conference held at a church.

Ron Hittle served the city of Stockton, California as a firefighter for 24 years. His long-standing service, however, was not enough to keep the city from discriminating against him on the basis of his religious beliefs.

When the city asked Chief Hittle to attend a leadership conference, he chose Willow Creek Community Church’s Global Leadership Summit, a world-class conference with speakers who hold to a variety of religious beliefs. Chief Hittle said that it was the best leadership training he’d ever received.

However, in September 2010, the city received a malevolent letter from a high-ranking Fire Department employee characterizing Chief Hittle as a “corrupt, racist, lying religious fanatic who should not be allowed to continue as the Fire Chief of Stockton.”

After receiving the letter, his supervisors threatened Chief Hittle’s job, family and reputation. One supervisor warned that if he sued, they would “drag (his) name through the mud.”

He was even told that he would “probably win in a long, expensive legal battle, but (that his) reputation will suffer irreparable harm.”

But Chief Hittle didn’t back down.

He has been fighting in court for almost 15 years. Unfortunately, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against him in May. The court then declined to hear his case before a larger panel of judges.

The case, however, is not over. Our attorneys are evaluating options, which include appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Similarly, First Liberty is fighting for Pastor Alex Smith in federal court. We filed a brief against the Atlantic City Fire Department for its refusal to grant a religious accommodation.

Pastor Alex has been an air mask technician with the ACFD since 2004. His job requires that he fit masks on his colleagues and refill air tanks. His religious beliefs and conscience require him to wear a beard.

However, the Fire Department requires all employees to shave their beards. This is so that firefighters can wear protective masks. But Pastor Smith’s job does not require him to wear a mask. Even still, the city flatly rejected his religious accommodation.

The Supreme Court and federal law are clear that Captain Little, Pastor Smith, and Chief Hittle should not be discriminated against simply because of their religious beliefs. What remains now is for employers to respect their rights and follow the law.


  1. […] LA County Wants to Force Christian Employee to Fly Pride Flag A county government is demanding that a Christian employee raise a Pride flag every day as part of his job duties. Captain Jeffery Little works for Los Angeles County Fire Department as a lifeguard. He’s an evangelical Christian with sincerely-held beliefs about gender and sexuality. […]

  2. Christians are being targeted intentionally to eliminate them from being able to earn a living if they don’t comply with a Marxist anti God, anti family agenda. Our rights and freedoms are being destroyed in the pursuit of a godless communist world society.


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