A former public elementary school teacher who is a Jehovah’s Witness has filed a lawsuit against the suburban Detroit school district where she used to work because, she claims, school officials ordered her to organize a classroom Valentine’s Day party and then sacked her because she refused.
People who belong to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a millenarian Christian sect, do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. Thus, the teacher, Yvonne Lemmons, is suing for religious discrimination, reports Michigan Live.
The defendant in the lawsuit is the Southfield Public School District in Southfield, Mich.
Lemmons, 56, says in her lawsuit that she had been a fourth-grade teacher at MacArthur University Academy, a public magnet school, for 10 years and had faced no issues concerning her religious beliefs prior to the Valentine’s Day party kerfuffle.
“She’s really a good woman devoted to teaching students,” Kathy Bogas, an attorney representing Lemmons, told Michigan Live. “Her abilities were never questioned until she challenged this directive.”
According to the lawsuit, on Feb. 12, 2014 — a Wednesday — the principal at MacArthur University Academy instructed Lemmons to throw an in-class Valentine’s Day party.
Lemmons refused, citing her status as a Jehovah’s Witness.
In the past, Bogas noted, parents of the students in Lemmons’s classes organized Valentine’s Day parties.
It’s not clear what was different about 2014. The lawsuit doesn’t say, and the school district would not comment on the lawsuit.
In any case, Lemmons did not show up for work on the day of the party — presumably Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.
Then, in June 2014, she was sacked.
Lemmons believes her dismissal is directly related to her refusal to organize be any part of the Valentine’s Day party.
“Defendant rejected all the Plaintiff’s suggestions that would have permitted students to have a holiday celebration without Plaintiff violating her religious beliefs,” the teacher’s court pleading states.
Lemmons and her attorneys argue that the school district’s refusal to accommodate her genuine religious belief and her subsequent job loss amount to illegal religious discrimination.
The lawsuit lists no specific dollar amount.
Lemmons has found work at an unnamed charter school since she was laid off.
Jehovah’s Witnesses object to Valentine’s Day because they seek a restoration of their notion of first-century Christianity. Valentine’s Day involves Cupid — the Greek god of erotic love — and one or more possibly martyred, third-century Roman saints named Valentinus.
Other holidays that Jehovah’s Witnesses spurn include Halloween. There’s no love for the Easter Bunny, either, because said bunny is, of course, a rabbit, and thus “a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility,” according to the official Jehovah’s Witnesses website.
It’s not clear how Lemmons handled Halloween parties in her classroom, if they occurred.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses website declares that there are 8,220,105 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the world. This figure includes Prince.
The Notorious B.I.G. and President Dwight D. Eisenhower were reportedly raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses. (RELATED: Gloria Steinem Just Got Her Rap Name In Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Chambers)