Court: Madison church free to hold employees accountable for religious beliefs

MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – A church in Madison may continue to require its employees to share and live their religious beliefs.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in favor of Capitoland Christian Center Church after a former employee filed a lawsuit against the church in 2015, alleging officials discriminated based on marital status.

According to a court filing, the plaintiff, Sandra Sandoval, was hired as a cook for Capitoland Christian Center Church’s daycare program in 2014.

When she started, Sandoval, like all other Capitoland Christian Center Church employees, reportedly signed a “Statement of Affirmation and Agreement.”

Part of this agreement involved all employees refraining from “cohabiting with members of the opposite sex outside of marriage” as a condition of their employment.

Sandoval was found to be in breach of those terms a year later when it was discovered she was living with her boyfriend. Shortly after, Sandoval allegedly stopped coming to work and returned his key card and personal effects.

Sandoval alleged that she stopped coming to work because she believed she had been fired while church officials claimed she quit because she had not come to work for several days and then had handed over his business.

Sandoval then filed a lawsuit against the church alleging that it had discriminated based on marital status.

After further investigation into that complaint, the court found Thursday that the Capitoland Christian Center church did not engage in discrimination based on marital status when it informed Sandoval that the church’s religious beliefs prohibited her from living with her boyfriend, a condition of employment she previously had. agreed to respect.

“Every church has a statement of faith, and it is not only reasonable, but expected for a church to require its employees to accept and follow its religious beliefs,” said ADF senior attorney Jeremiah Galus. . “We are thrilled that the Wisconsin Court of Appeals has agreed and that Capitoland Christian Center Church is free to continue its great work in the Madison community.”

In addition, the court ruled that Sandoval suffered no adverse employment action, upholding Capitoland Christian Center Church’s right to require its employees to adhere to its fundamental religious beliefs.

Ruth R. Culp