NEWARK, New Jersey, December 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A Christian woman in New Jersey is suing coffeehouse chain Starbucks for being fired after refusing to wear a shirt celebrating homosexuality and transgenderism, which she said violated her religious beliefs.
Betsy Fresse began working at Starbucks as a barista in December 2015, and when she was being transferred to a new store in Glen Ridge last year, she was “assured” by her employers that her Christian faith would not be an issue, the New York Post reports.
Several months later, during a manager’s meeting, she noticed a box of Starbucks “Pride” shirts and inquired if she would be required to wear one. This would be “tantamount to forced speech” since her Christian faith recognizes that marriage can only be between “one man and one woman,” according to her lawsuit.
Fresse’s manager assured her she would not have to wear the t-shirt at work, but in August, she was informed by a district manager that she had been terminated.
“Mrs. Fresse hold[s] the personal religious belief that all people need Jesus,” the lawsuit states. “Mrs. Fresse believes that every Christian is called to love and treat everyone with respect and compassion, irrespective of their religious or other beliefs.”
A termination letter issued by Starbucks states that Fresse was fired for violating the company’s “core values,” and that she said her colleagues “need Jesus” when she was given the t-shirt.
The termination letter also stated, “We enforce these values when we embrace inclusion and diversity, and welcome and learn from people with different backgrounds and perspectives.” The report did not mention if this stated policy of Starbucks applies to Christian religious expression, as well.
Fresse’s lawsuit alleges unlawful discrimination, and according to the New York Post, “is seeking backpay, punitive damages and payment of her attorneys’ fees. It also seeks a permanent injunction preventing Starbucks from ‘failing to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs’ of employees.”
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A spokesman for Starbucks referred to the lawsuit as baseless.
“We are very aware of the claims by Mrs. Fresse, which are without merit and we are fully prepared to present our case in court,” the spokesman told the newspaper. “Specific to our dress code, other than our green apron, no part of our dress code requires partners to wear any approved items that they have not personally selected.”