- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

The American Center for Law and Justice has filed suit in federal court against a public library system in Kentucky on behalf of a former employee who says she was fired for wearing a cross necklace to work.
"It is unbelievable that you can be fired from a job for wearing a cross necklace. That is exactly what happened in this case," said Francis Manion, senior counsel for the ACLJ, a public interest law firm that specializes in cases involving issues of religious freedom.
"The public library system violated the free speech and free exercise of religious rights of our client. We're confident that this injustice will be corrected in court," he added.
Asked about the lawsuit, Tom Noe, county attorney for Logan County, said yesterday it had not yet been served.
He said he "felt sure" there were reasons for the employee's termination beyond the cross necklace. He believes some sort of compromise might have been worked out if the necklace were the only issue.
"There are always two sides," he said in a telephone interview, but he declined to elaborate.
The suit, filed last Friday in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green, says that Kimberly Draper, who was hired in August 1998 to work at the front desk in the Logan County Public Library, was given a dress code that read: "No clothing depicting religious, political, or potentially offensive decoration is permitted."
Miss Draper said that when she was hired she was told by library Director Linda Kompanik that she would be free to wear religious jewelry, as it was not covered by the dress code.
But according to the lawsuit, on April 5, 2001, Miss Draper was ordered by Sheryl Appling, assistant library director, to remove her cross necklace. She did not and continued to work that day.
However, the next day, Miss Draper was again ordered by Miss Appling to remove the cross necklace.
When she refused, she was told to go home and to dress "appropriately" if she expected to work the following day.
The lawsuit says Miss Draper met with Miss Kompanik on April 16, 2001. She says the topic of discussion was her cross necklace. At the end of the discussion, the plaintiff says, Miss Kompanik informed her she was no longer an employee of the library.
"The [dress code] is what's so troubling here. The policy itself, on its face, is unconstitutional," ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow said yesterday in a telephone interview.
Mr. Sekulow and Mr. Manion both said they also found it "troubling" that the Logan County Library system has in place a dress code policy that "equates a religious symbol with being offensive."
The lawsuit filed by ACLJ asks the court to declare the dress code policy "overly broad, unconstitutional and illegal."
It also seeks both compensatory and punitive damages for Miss Draper. It says punitive damages are "appropriate," as Miss Draper has suffered emotional pain and suffering as a result of the "willful, malicious, oppressive" conduct of the library system, its trustees and its staff and their "conscious disregard of her federally protected rights."
However, Mr. Sekulow said he has seen no evidence library officials would be willing to back down from their dress code. Neither will the ACLJ and Miss Draper, he said.
"We will litigate this very aggressively," he said.
Mr. Noe complained about "hate mail" he was receiving from the "religious right" about the case.
He noted receiving an e-mail message from one person who called for the library officials involved in Miss Draper's firing to be "sent to Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden."
At the same time, Mr. Noe said he believes libraries do not like having their employees wear religious medals or emblems, given that they are in direct contact with members of the public, who represent a broad spectrum of religious faiths.
Larra Clark, spokeswoman for the Chicago-based American Library Association, said yesterday the ALA "does not have any policy or guidelines directly related to" the question of wearing religious garb or jewelry on the job.

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