It’s not many fights over faith where the issue is so succinctly defined as in the dispute between Alexia Palma and Legacy Community Health of Houston, where one of the hospital officials told Palma employees must “put aside their own personal beliefs or views” to work there.
The issue was Palma, as a faithful Catholic, for months had been allowed by the hospital to use a video for a small portion of her health teaching responsibilities to address contraception, since advocating for that violated her faith.
But a new supervisor abruptly refused to continue the accommodation, and told Palma that it was either violate her faith – or be fired.
It was in an email from Amy Leonard, vice president of public health services at Legacy Community Health in Houston, to Alexia in which she said, “We discussed how sometimes employees may need to put aside their own personal beliefs or views in order to meet the job requirements. Part of your job as a Patient Educator is to provide quality education to patients on a variety of topics including family planning.
“This includes not only playing a video on family planning and providing a brochure, but also being willing to lead a comprehensive discussion regarding the information provided and answer any questions participants may have about the video.”
The hospital not only had initially ordered her to be at a meeting a Planned Parenthood, the biggest player in the nation’s abortion industry, but leading that event, on the topic of family planning.
The result is that First Liberty Institute has jumped to her defense, filing a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging Legacy “engaged in religious discrimination.”
“The company gave Alexia an ultimatum – violate your faith or be fired,” Jeremy Dys, First Liberty’s senior counsel, said. “That’s a violation of federal law and it’s blatant religious discrimination.”
He pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court already has decided this issue.
“A company can’t fire a person just because the person needs a simple religious accommodation, especially when it can be provided with no hardship to the company,” he said. “No one should be fired over their religious beliefs.”
In a statement released through First Liberty, Palma said, “I really loved my job and my patients, but I couldn’t do what the company was asking. Through my difficult childhood, God has always been faithful to me, so I must be faithful to him. My faith comes first.”
Her “difficult childhood” includes her birth in Guatemala and subsequent departure of her mother for a life in America. She lived with her grandparents then for a time, arriving in American at five.
She experienced both abandonment and abuse, she reported.
Eventually she graduated from college and began work in health promotion with her job at Legacy.
When the issue of birth control, including the contraceptives Plan B and Ella, which critics charge cause abortion and the Catholic Church does not accept, came up, she requested a simple religious accommodation – that a video would be used to present the topic rather than a personal presentation from her.
Initially her supervisors agreed.
But a new supervisor came on the scene and abruptly demanded she violate her faith in an ultimatum.
Faced with evidence that the birth control class was less than 2 percent of Palma’s work, and with her renewed request for a religious accommodation, Leonard ordered Palma to “put aside” her faith or be fired.
“Although the management team acknowledged Alexia’s performance was excellent in all other areas, they told her that unless she was willing to personally teach the birth control class, she would be terminated,” First Liberty reported.
The team reported their first response was to seek help from the EEOC, a process that now is pending.