LEE COUNTY, N.C. – A former sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina is suing for $300,000 in damages, claiming he was fired for trying to adhere to what has become known as the “Billy Graham Rule.”
Manuel Torres, 51, says he was terminated from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office because he refused to be alone with a female trainee. The former deputy said doing so would violate his Evangelical Christian principles.
“Torres 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,” the federal lawsuit states, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The training would have required Torres to be alone with the woman for “significant periods of time” in a patrol car, the lawsuit says.
According to the Observer, Torres asked in July 2017 to be exempted from the training assignment. Nevertheless, his request was denied. Consequently, two months later, a superior officer “expressed his anger” about Torres’ repeated requests to be excused from the assignment.
Torres claims he was fired soon after, with no explanation from the sheriff’s office. Afterward, he claims in the lawsuit, other law enforcement agencies declined to hire him after learning about his Lee County dispute.
The former deputy, a Southern Baptist who has served as a deacon at his local church, is believed to be the first plaintiff to invoke the Billy Graham Rule in making a discrimination claim, BuzzFeed News reported.
Torres has named as defendants Lee County Sheriff Tracy Lynn Carter and the towns of Siler City and Apex, where he had sought new employment.
Rev. Billy Graham, the famed evangelist who died at age 99 in February 2018, was a proponent of not being alone with a woman who was not his wife.
The practice was created by the famed preacher in 1948, when he was on the road spreading the gospel. Graham and his male colleagues vowed to avoid situations that would “have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion.” It is a discipline that Vice President Mike Pence tries to follow. Furthermore, it is practiced in many churches, including Saddleback Church in Southern California, pastored by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, according to Jim McNeff, managing editor of Law Officer.
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