DALLAS (LifeSiteNews) — Southwest Airlines must take an eight-hour course on religious freedom from a prominent Christian legal group, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
Judge Brantley Starr ordered Southwest to pay for the travel, meals, and training for a representative of Alliance Defending Freedom to come to Texas and instruct the company’s attorneys on religious freedom. The order comes after Southwest violated prior court rulings relating to its discrimination against pro-life flight attendant Charlene Carter.
The pro-life flight attendant won a $5.1 million lawsuit in July 2022 after she contended that the airline and the Transport Workers Union of America violated her rights by firing her after she objected to the union’s use of employee dues to donate to the pro-abortion Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
“The Court ordered Carter reinstated, enjoined Southwest from discriminating against the religious beliefs of its flight attendants, and ordered Southwest to notify its flight attendants of Title VII’s prohibition on religious discrimination,” Judge Starr wrote on Monday. But Southwest did not follow all of the requirements.
The court required Southwest to inform its flight attendants that the company “may not discriminate against Southwest flight attendants for their religious practices and beliefs” but instead told them it “does not discriminate,” implying that Carter’s claims were wrong and contradicting the court.
Southwest also “failed to mention Title VII” in its memo and wrongly said “its employees must abide by the types of policies over which Southwest fired Carter and that it believed its firing of Carter was justified because of those policies,” according to Starr.
“It’s hard to see how Southwest could have violated the notice requirement more,” Starr wrote. He gave a fictional account of Genesis to make his point. “After God told Adam, ‘[Y]ou must not eat from the tree [in the middle of the garden],’ imagine Adam telling God, ‘I do not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden’ — while an apple core rests at his feet,” the judge wrote.
He then ordered:
Because Southwest’s right to speak when implementing the Court’s injunction ensures a continued partnership in the future, and Southwest’s speech and actions toward employees demonstrate a chronic failure to understand the role of federal protections for religious freedom, the Court concludes that training on religious freedom for three lawyers at Southwest the Court finds responsible (Kerrie Forbes, Kevin Minchey, and Chris Maberry) is the least restrictive means of achieving compliance with the Court’s order. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has conducted such training in the past, and the Court deems that appropriate here.
“Southwest must transport ADF’s representative to Dallas and be responsible for any food, accommodation, or other travel expenses for ADF’s representative,” the judge ruled.
Starr also ordered Southwest to send specific language stating that the company erred in its initial message. “Under Title VII, Southwest may not discriminate against Southwest flight attendants for their religious practices and beliefs, including—but not limited to—those expressed on social media and those concerning abortion,” Starr ordered Southwest to tell its employees.
National Right to Work (NRTW), which represented Carter, thanked the judge for his ruling.
“Southwest’s past behavior against Carter was discriminatory and illegal, and the District Court’s order rightly shuts down Southwest Airlines’ bald-faced attempt to dodge its responsibility to inform flight attendants of its wrongdoing,” President Mark Mix said in a statement shared with LifeSiteNews. “Hopefully this order provides hope to other independent minded workers that their right to express their religious dissent against union and company political agendas cannot so easily be waved away.”
Ruling latest in 10-year battle between Carter, her union, and Southwest
Carter left the union after 17 years in 2013 after she learned that her dues were being used to fund groups and ideologies that cut against her religious beliefs. However, she still had to pay fees “as a condition of her employment” according to prior statements from NRTW.
After she expressed her opposition to the union’s political stance via social media, the airlines company called Carter in for a mandatory meeting to discuss “Facebook posts they had seen,” including her pro-life messages.
“Flight attendants should have a voice, and nobody should be able to retaliate against a flight attendant for engaging in protected speech against her union,” Carter said last July after the initial court victory.