Monday, June 25, 2007

Victory for Teacher Told to Pay Dues or Change Religions

From "Victory for Teacher Told to Pay Dues or Change Religions" by Randy Hall, Staff Writer/Editor, posted June 25, 2007

( - A legal challenge mounted by a teacher in southern Ohio, who said a union official told her to pay dues or change religions, has prompted a federal district court to strike down a state law that allowed only those public employees who belonged to certain denominations the right to claim a religious objection to paying union dues.

"It's wonderful, just wonderful," Carol Katter, a mathematics and language arts instructor in the St. Marys district, told Cybercast News Service on Friday after U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost struck down Ohio Revised Code section 4117.09(C) as a violation of her First Amendment rights.

In addition, Frost permanently enjoined the State Employment Relations Board from further enforcing that law, which stated that any public employee who was a member of a "bona fide religion or religious body which has historically held conscientious objections to joining or financially supporting an employee organization ... shall not be required to join or financially support any employee organization."

Katter added that she was "really excited" about the decision and that it was "absolutely worth the struggle" she'd gone through.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the lifelong Catholic and opponent of abortion on demand had always declined membership in the Ohio Education Association, a state chapter of the National Education Association, because she is unhappy with the NEA's stance on abortion.

"I know where NEA money goes, and I knew I never wanted to be part of that," she said at the time.

"When it became mandatory last year, we were told our dues could go to a charity," Katter said. However, she soon learned that members of only the Seventh-day Adventist and Mennonite churches received an exemption, due to their denominations' history of objection to union membership.

While discussing the situation with an OEA official, Katter "pretty much pleaded with the lady," saying: "I can't do this. It's against my belief and my conscience. Isn't there anything I can do to just give the money to charity?"

The teacher's request was turned down "basically because I could not come up with proof that my individual church - not the Catholic faith, but my individual church - had a record of anyone having successfully fought a union," she stated.

Katter said the union attorney had then told her she had two choices - pay her dues or "change religions."

Read the rest of this article.

Since when does freedom of conscience apply only to members of organized religions?