A Christian business owner in Oregon is being sued for requiring his employees to attend a weekly Bible study.
Joel Dahl is a former prison inmate and owner of "Dahled Up Construction," a corporation that specializes in painting, roofing, and construction. He built his company on Christian principles – the same principles he embraced after finding God in prison.
Now, he's being sued for $800,000 after former employee Ryan Coleman says he was fired for refusing to attend the weekly Bible study all employees are required to attend. The Bible study is one hour per week and is led by a Christian minister. It occurs during working hours and employees are paid to attend.
Unsure of where to find another job, Coleman attended the study for six months until he decided to stop going.
"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,'" Coleman told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
"He said 'You're not going to tell me how to run my own company,'" Coleman continued. "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's suit argues Dahl discriminated against him on the basis of religion by terminating his employment.
Dahl believes his claims are unjustified.
"Mr. Dahl feels that it's unfortunate that he (Coleman) is now trying to exploit Mr. Dahl's honorable intentions for unjustified financial gain," said Ken Hickam, Dahl's attorney said. He does not dispute Coleman's claims that he was required to attend the study, but said it is legal because Dahl pays his employees to go.
Dahl is also being represented by the Pacific Justice Institute.
"Joel Dahl hopes to do more with his company than just construction work," PJI President Brad Dacus said. "He hopes to help inmates who were once like him, and who might otherwise have difficulty finding work because of their past mistakes, find redemption. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held in recent years that Christian business owners are, for the most part, free to operate their companies in accordance with their faith's principles. We hope to defend Mr. Dahl's right to do the same, especially given the well-documented power of Christianity to transform even the vilest of offenders into model citizens."