Monday, September 29, 2003

The Ohio affiliate of the National Education Association is continuing to harass teachers who resist donating to causes against their religion, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says.

Though no fines have been levied in the most recent of several cases brought against the Cleveland-based Ohio Education Association, the EEOC said in a Sept. 22 ruling that the OEA must resolve the case of William Morgan, a Quaker and janitor for Mentor Public Schools, about 30 miles east of Cleveland.

The EEOC can sue the OEA in federal court if the union doesn’t comply.

Mr. Morgan, whose yearly dues run between $400 and $500, says he has religious objections to his union dues being used to support organizations favorable to abortion and homosexuality.

He is one of several members the NEA’s Ohio affiliate who have run afoul of the powerful teachers union, which has 2.7 million members nationwide.

The NEA has attracted the attention of the Landmark Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm, which says the union has spent tens of millions of dollars from members’ tax-exempt dues to fight the Democratic Party’s political battles and promote election of Democrats.

Mr. Morgan requested religious-objector status on Jan. 9 and was informed Jan. 24 he had received it. But OEA refused to divert his dues to a charity supporting adoptions.

Mr. Morgan asked the EEOC to intervene in May. In the recent ruling, Michael Fetzer, EEOC’s director for the Cleveland district office, said the OEA violated Mr. Morgan’s civil rights.

Michael Pons, a spokesman for the NEA, says the janitor used bait-and-switch tactics, first saying he wanted to be a religious objector but not specifying a charity. Mr. Morgan then missed the deadline to designate a charity, he said.

“This individual filed for religious-objector status one day late and for a portion of his dues go to noncontroversial associations,” Mr. Pons said. “We accommodated that person and said, if you object to these activities, we will strip those funds.”

Then the janitor “upped the ante,” he said, “and tried to go outside the OEA’s procedures and outside what both parties were required to do,” Mr. Pons said. The sticking point was which charity would receive the funds, on which Mr. Morgan and OEA could not agree.

Otherwise, “we make every effort to accommodate people,” Mr. Pons said.

Dan Cronin, director of legal information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said OEA has a pattern of disrespect for the rights of people of faith.

“They are just trying to delay this and scare people off from standing up for their rights,” he said. “They figure people will give up.”

Mr. Cronin says his organization, based in Springfield, Va., gets 100 calls a year from teachers around the country complaining that they do not want their dues supporting causes with which they don’t agree.

This is not the first such dispute with the OEA. Dennis Robey, a high school industrial-arts teacher in Huber Heights, Ohio, objected to some of the union’s positions that, he said, violated his Christian beliefs.

He made arrangements to turn over the $400 a year he paid in union dues to a charity from 1995 to 1999. In 2000, the right-to-work foundation says, the OEA began issuing a questionnaire, demanding he detail his religious beliefs and obtain a signature from a “religious official” affirming their validity.

Mr. Robey filed a complaint that got a favorable ruling from the EEOC in May 2002. It ordered the union to stop issuing such questionnaires.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide