For eight years Daniel and Sharon Dixon, apartment managers in Lake City, Fla., displayed in the apartment complex's management office a stained glass depiction of flowers with the words "Consider the lilies … Matthew 6:28" written in the lower left corner – an act for which they were suddenly fired from their management jobs and evicted from their apartment.
The artwork that got the Dixons fired
Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom that is representing the Dixons, told WND that neither before nor after the incident were the Dixons charged with any wrongdoing other than protesting the removal of the artwork and loss of their jobs.
"They were suddenly terminated as a result of the religious bigotry of one supervisor," Staver said in a press release. "The Dixons lost their jobs and were booted out on the street, solely because artwork in their office made reference to the Bible."
The Dixons managed and provided maintenance for the Thornwood Terrace Apartments, a government-subsidized complex owned and operated by the Hallmark Companies and Hallmark Management. The couple was permitted to live in the complex as part of their compensation.
Last September a regional manager for Hallmark, Christina Saunders, visited the complex in anticipation of a government inspection and saw the glass artwork. According to a Liberty Counsel release, Saunders asked Sharon if the words on the artwork referenced the Bible. After Sharon confirmed they did, Saunders instructed her to take it down.
Sharon replied that she needed to consult her husband and co-manager, Daniel, and left the office to find him.
When the couple returned, Saunders had already removed the artwork, entered the Dixons' apartment without their permission and deposited the artwork there. According to the press release, she then said Sharon and Daniel were "too religious," fired them and demanded they vacate their apartment within 72 hours.
"Hallmark could have separated the Dixons' residence from their job, even with the termination," Staver told WND. "They could have stayed in their apartment, but (Hallmark) both fired and evicted them."
WND attempted to reach Hallmark Management for comment, but phone calls were not returned.
The Dixon's story moved to court today, as Liberty Counsel filed a suit in the Jacksonville federal court on the couple's behalf, claiming the Dixons were discriminated against on the basis of their religious beliefs.
According to the lawsuit, the only reasons given for the Dixons' termination were that the couple was "too religious" and that Sharon was insubordinate for not immediately removing the artwork before consulting with her husband.
The Agency for Workforce Innovation, however, which ruled in the Dixons' favor in their request for unemployment compensation, agreed that the termination was not based on job performance, finding that though the Dixons were charged with insubordination, "no information has been submitted which substantiates misconduct" and "the discharge was for reasons other than misconduct connected with the work."
The Dixons originally left their apartment in compliance with the eviction and currently reside in Jacksonville, Fla.