Christian awarded $90,000 after being unlawfully fired for evangelizing

(Photo: Neolyph)

An Irish man was recently awarded with €70,000, or about $94,290, for being unlawfully terminated from the now defunct South Tipperary County Council for repeatedly evangelizing during work hours.

John McAteer, a born-again Christian, had been warned to stop telling others about the Lord for nearly two years before he was dismissed. McAteer maintains that it is a central tenet of Christianity to witness to others.

The former Clonmel Borough civil engineer began working for the council in December 2007, The Irish Times reports. He was first warned not to talk about his faith at work in April 2008, after someone complained to Human Resources. McAteer was also reportedly instructed not to discuss his faith during his lunch break.

After several other incidents of McAteer evangelizing to co-workers and members of the public, he faced disciplinary action in June 2008, and warned that further infractions could lead to his dismissal. A third disciplinary action occurred two months later, after the government employee ministered during work hours to a man on the street.

He spoke to another man about God outside a coffee shop in June 2009, leading to a two-month suspension and mandatory meeting(s) with a therapist to help him stop evangelizing, according to The Irish Times. It is unknown whether McAteer attended the mandated therapy.

After speaking to a man about Jesus in June 2010, McAteer was fired.

The council insisted that the termination was not religious discrimination, but because he failed to follow the instructions of his supervisors.

Equality Tribunal Officer Marian Duffy found that practicing one's religion is protected by the country's Employment Equality Act, and "the treatment of the complainant and the monitoring of him by council staff directly related to his religious beliefs and the manifestation of these beliefs."

The council's prohibition of evangelism between 9 a.m. and 5 a.m. was found to have a disproportionate impact on McAteer.

"For these reasons, I am satisfied that the complainant has established a prima facie case of discriminatory treatment in relation to his conditions of employment and dismissal," Duffy said.

The Tribunal also noted that McAteer had an ending salary of €54,000, or just under $73,000, and had been unable to secure full-time employment since his termination.

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