Ryan Coleman is suing Oregon’s Dahled Up Construction for $800,000 after being fired for refusal to attend a mandatory on-the-job Bible study.
After being hired as a painter for Dahled Up Construction, Coleman said that he discovered a job requirement that had not been mentioned beforehand. To keep his job, he would be required to attend a daily Bible study led by a local pastor, on the clock. Coleman told owner Joel Dahl that the practice was illegal but attended in good faith for six months.
After that time, Coleman told Dahl that he would no longer participate. “I said ‘I’ve kept an open mind, and it’s just not my thing.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m going to have to replace you,’” he told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “He said ‘You’re not going to tell me how to run my own company.’ I said ‘I’m not trying to tell you how to run your own company, but you’re not going to tell me what god to pray to.’”
Coleman claims that his personal religious beliefs are based in his Native American heritage. He is descended from both Cherokee and Blackfoot ancestors, though he is half Caucasian. His attorney, Corinne Schram, described the demand that employees attend the Bible studies as “so illegal.” She said, “unless you are a religious organization like a church, you cannot force your employees to participate in religious activities.”
Dahl attorney Kent Hickam contends that the practice is not illegal because employees are on the clock the whole time. According to Hickam, “Mr. Dahl feels that it’s unfortunate that he (Coleman) is now trying to exploit Mr. Dahl’s honorable intentions for unjustified financial gain.”