A lawsuit has been filed against the Middlebury School District by Kevin Pack, a former teacher at Northridge High School (Middlebury, Indiana), who claims that he was fired because he identifies as an atheist.
Pack was hired to teach German at Northridge High School in 2013 and was fired in April 2014. He filed a complaint in federal court on Wednesday claiming that his constitutional right to freedom of religion had been violated.
According to an article published on Daily Kos, Pack filed suit alleging that “he was fired in retaliation for questioning the proselytizing of the school’s principal, Gerald Rasler.”
In addition to retaliation, Pack also cites other examples in his suit which he feels support his claim:
- - During a phone interview before he was hired, Rasler asked Pack about his religious beliefs and political leanings.
- - Before meals were served during faculty meetings, Rasler asked teachers to take part in a Christian prayer. The prayers offended Pack, an atheist committed to the separation of church and state. Because he was a new hire, he didn’t feel he could openly challenge Rasler, but he declined to act as if he was praying, which Rasler noticed
- - In an email sent to all faculty, Rasler once asked teachers to pray it wouldn’t snow so that student testing wouldn’t be disrupted. In a reply to all recipients of the email, Pack, alluding to his atheism, said he would choose instead to rely upon the predictions of meteorologists.
The school district argues that Pack was not fired for his atheism, but rather his incompetence as a teacher.
“We did not terminate Mr. Pack because he is (an) atheist,” Superintendent Jane Allen. “He was a poor teacher. That is why we terminated him, and we still believe the same thing.” Allen also stated in a press release that Pack's teaching performance “regressed throughout the school year and showed no potential for improvement.”
The school district also lists several other reasons for Pack’s termination including:
- - Insubordination
- - Not speaking enough German in class
- - Showing an R rated movie to underclassmen
- - Negative evaluations to students
"When a teacher objects to conduct not permitted by the First Amendment, he should not lose his job as a result," said attorney William Wilson. "It doesn’t matter whether the teacher is a Catholic, Methodist, Buddhist or atheist. Freedom of religion requires that people feel they can safely object to behavior that the First Amendment prohibits."