Dethroned former Miss California USA sues for religious discrimination

It’s been said that, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” And with former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean suing pageant officials this week, so are claims of religious discrimination. Prejean is suing for libel, slander and religious discrimination, asserting that officials told her to stop mentioning God even before her controversial comments regarding gay marriage.

Prejean was fired from her position as Miss California USA in June, just months after the Miss USA Pageant where she spoke out against same-sex marriage. When asked whether she believes in gay marriage, she replied:

“We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you
know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a
marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there,
but that's how I was raised."

Was it this response that cost Prejean her crown – and ultimately led to her firing? While pageant co-director Keith Lewis claims Prejean’s termination was due to violation of contract (specifically, unwillingness to make public appearances), Prejean’s attorney, Charles LiMandri, says otherwise. He states:

“Over the past two months we have worked hard to provide overwhelming evidence
that Carrie Prejean did not violate her contract with Miss California USA and
did not deserve to have her title revoked by Keith Lewis. We will make the case
that her title was taken from her solely because of her support of traditional
marriage. Keith Lewis has refused to clear her good name or even to admit any
wrongdoing. Therefore, Carrie Prejean is left with no alternative but to take
her case to court where she expects to be fully vindicated.”

Do you think Prejean has a legitimate case here? Was she truly wronged for expressing her traditional religious beliefs? Or is this a carefully orchestrated publicity stunt that will meet its demise in court?

Regardless of your opinion of the “fallen” beauty queen, when it comes to religion in the workplace, the law is clear: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment. Yet in 2009, EEOC received 3,273 charges of religious discrimination, resolving more than 2,700 of these charges and recovering $7.5 million in damages.

As an employer, you must accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and take active steps to prevent religious discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Start with a careful review of the current laws and your internal policies and procedures. Then, be sure you’re holding all employees and managers accountable for adhering to these policies.

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