A Christian school in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is facing a legal battle against two former teachers who were fired for failing to prove their faith.
Preschool teachers Lynda Serrano and Mary Ellen Guevara threatened the school with a lawsuit after being fired for refusing to sign a statement of faith and providing a reference from a pastor.
The Little Oaks School then filed its own lawsuit in federal court Jan. 25, citing civil rights laws that protect their freedom to hire teachers who share their religious beliefs, the Venture County Star reports.
The teachers, however, cite the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits religious discrimination with exemptions that do not include for-profit religious groups, such as the school which missed the deadline to file as tax-exempt.
“The question is ultimately, do the nondiscrimination rights of the teachers under state law trump the religious rights of the school under federal law?” Richard Kahdeman, a lawyer representing the church and school, told the Star.
In their statement, the teachers expressed surprise that the school contends California law is unconstitutional yet did not include the state as a defendant. They said they won’t stop fighting for the teachers’ rights, The Star reports.