A former sheriff’s deputy in Lee County, N.C., says he was fired from his job for following the so-called Billy Graham rule and asking to be excused from spending a significant amount of time alone with a female trainee. Late last month, Manuel Torres filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division, claiming his firing was the result of religious discrimination.
Torres, who worked for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) from 2012 until he was fired in 2017, filed a complaint on July 31 accusing Sheriff Tracy Lynn Carter of discriminating against him by terminating his employment after he requested a reasonable religious accommodation based on his Christian beliefs — namely, Torres asked that he not be forced to spend time alone with a female coworker whom he was assigned to train. Torres is seeking “equitable and monetary relief in the form of present and future lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages for emotional distress and other injuries, and punitive and/or liquidated damages, as provided by law.”
The Billy Graham rule dates back to the 1940s, when Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham, who was spending long stretches of time on the road away from his family, made a pact with several other men involved in ministry, called the Modesto Manifesto, vowing to “avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion,” according to Graham’s autobiography. The idea behind the rule was to obey the Bible’s command to “abstain from every form of evil” (sometimes translated “abstain from all appearance of evil”). Graham’s desire was that no one should be able to accuse him of sexual misconduct as a result of being spotted alone with a woman. Vice President Mike Pence also follows a variation of the rule and has been the object of much scorn and mockery for his “antiquated” religious beliefs.
Torres, 51, filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC) in 2017, alleging that the sheriff’s office had “engaged in unlawful religious discrimination and retaliation against him in denying his requests for religious accommodations.” The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue notice earlier this year, paving the way for Torres’ federal lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Torres “holds to Christian religious beliefs and regularly attends and serves as a deacon at East Sanford Baptist Church in Sanford, North Carolina” and “holds the strong and sincere religious belief that the Holy Bible prohibits him, as a married man, from being alone for extended periods with a female who is not his wife.”
During the course of his employment with the LCSO, Torres was “ordered to train a female deputy, which would include the requirement that he spend significant periods of time alone in his patrol car with the female officer trainee,” according to the complaint. “The job duty of training female deputies, in such a manner, violates Plaintiff’s religious beliefs against being alone for periods of time with female(s) who is/are not his wife and leaving the appearance of sinful conduct on his part.”
Torres’ request for a reasonable religious accommodation from his employer was at first granted, but subsequently denied, and he was later terminated.
Before his termination, the former deputy claims that he was retaliated against as the result of his decision to take his request to his superiors. Torres claims — and this is terrifying — that his sergeant “failed to respond to Torres’s call for backup during Torres’s covering of a multi-vehicle accident in an unsafe area in which Torres had to tase two fighting suspects, and a gun was present on the scene.” When the LCSO “refused or neglected” backup for nearly 30 minutes, an officer from a neighboring jurisdiction had to step in to assist Torres at the scene.
But it didn’t end there. Torres claims that the LCSO “provided false and negative referrals to prospective employers” in Siler City and Apex, N.C., which are also named as defendants in the suit. Torres alleges that both those cities offered him positions, but rescinded them after the LCSO made false and derogatory comments about his job performance to his prospective employers.
Torres claims that he has suffered “a loss of income and benefits; loss of quality and enjoyment of life; loss of reputation; and other damages.”
The complaint notes that it is the public policy of the State of North Carolina “that all persons shall be able to seek, obtain, and hold employment without discrimination or abridgment on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, or handicap by employers” and that Torres’ religion “is a protected category in North Carolina.” The former deputy is seeking $300,000 in compensatory damages for the loss of income and benefits and the emotional distress he’s suffered, along with $15,000 in punitive damages.
While many have accused proponents of the Billy Graham rule — and this is especially true of the vice president — of being misogynist or discriminating against women by refusing to be alone with them, such a decision seems like a no-brainer in the era of #MeToo. After all, we’ve been lectured constantly over the last few years that we must believe all women — whether or not the facts back up the accusations. As we saw with the hearings to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, there’s a movement afoot (actually, it’s in full swing) to discard due process in favor of a system that gives the word of a woman more credibility than that of a man, whether or not the evidence substantiates her claims. (PJM’s Megan Fox wrote a whole book about it, called Believe Evidence. I highly recommend it.)
In the current climate, men who spend time alone with women risk being falsely accused and having their reputations and careers destroyed and their lives turned upside down based on little or no evidence. Who could blame a man for being terrified to spend time alone with women when they’ve seen what can happen to a man like Kavanaugh at the highest levels of government? Maybe that does put women at a disadvantage in the workplace, but this is the bed feminists have made for themselves and now they’re complaining about being forced to lie in it. When you treat men as if they’re all predators and make them the enemy, don’t be surprised if they return the favor.