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California Teacher Fired for Refusing to Promote Same-Sex Marriage to Kids

10-17-2022
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A California teacher is suing her former employer, claiming she was harassed and wrongfully terminated because she refused to read children's books promoting same-sex marriage to children ages one to five years old due to her religious convictions.

Nelli Parisenkova, worked at Bright Horizons Children's Center in Studio City, California as a support teacher for four years before being terminated.

In April 2018, Parisenkova discovered that the childcare room where she worked had books that promoted and celebrated same-sex relationships and marriage.

She asked her direct supervisor for an informal accommodation that would allow her not to read the books or promote any messages that were contrary to her biblically held beliefs. Her request was granted.  

According to the lawsuit filed on her behalf by attorneys with the nonprofit national public interest law firm Thomas More Society, Katy Callas, the director of Bright Horizons discovered Parisenkova's religious beliefs last April and reported her to HR for "violating" the company policy that requires all staff to celebrate and promote diversity, including same-sex marriage. 

"Callas, who is lesbian, apparently took personal offense at Nelli Parisenkova's religious beliefs and enforced Bright Horizons anti-religious 'diversity and inclusion' workplace policies," explained Paul Jonna, Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel. 

Jonna said Callas called the support teacher into her office and "questioned her in an irate manner." 

"[She] told her that if she did not want to celebrate diversity this was not the place for her to work, gave her an administrative leave memo, escorted her outside with a security guard, and left her out in the 96-degree heat with no transportation," Jonna explained. 

The attorney adds that Parisenkova was forced to walk 20 minutes in the heat and wait 45 minutes for transportation and suffered heat exhaustion for the next two days.

Parisenkova formally requested a religious accommodation from Bright Horizons, but the organization rejected the request and did not consider alternative options such as having another co-worker read the offending books.

The teacher claims that as soon as Bright Horizons learned of her religious objections the organization was intent on creating a hostile work environment and forcing her termination.

"They tried to get her to quit through harassment and intimidation. When she couldn't return to work because they denied her accommodation request, they fired her. You can't get much more discriminatory than that. It's unethical and it's blatantly illegal," Jonna said. 

"Bright Horizons did not engage in any negotiations and made no attempt whatsoever to determine whether a reasonable accommodation could be reached," reads a statement from the Thomas More Society. 

The lawsuit reads, "instead, Bright Horizons issued a counseling memo with false statements, terminated her life-insurance benefits, required her to complete retraining in diversity issues, and encouraged her to resign her position. Ms. Parisenkova could not return to work without an accommodation; so, Bright Horizons terminated her employment."

"This is an outrageous example of religious discrimination," Joanna added. "This is a clear-cut case of one of the largest childcare employers in the country having anti-religious workplace policies that promote indoctrination of young children with the LGBT agenda."

CBN News has reached out to Bright Horizons for comment. At the time of publication, they did not respond. If we hear back from them, we will post their response here. 

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