Baptist school ordered to pay fired Catholic teacher

Jury awards $23,000 to Columbia woman

October 21, 2001|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County jury awarded $23,600 to a Columbia woman who said she was fired from a teaching job at a Baptist school because she is a practicing Catholic.

"I just hope that no other person goes through what my child and I went through. I teach my child to grow up with religious tolerance and tolerance for every race," Frances White, 39, said Friday night after the Circuit Court jury returned its verdict. "They breached the contract. They lied."

White said she was yanked out of the classroom a week into the 1998-99 school year, ordered to attend Baptist services and placed in a "discipleship" to learn more about the church's beliefs. She was fired in December 1998.

White, who has been working as a substitute teacher in Howard and Anne Arundel counties while working toward a master's degree, contended that officials at Odenton Christian School and Odenton Baptist Church knew she was Catholic when she was hired and did not make the religious education part of her contract.

"I have faith in people," T.E. Pike, director of the 25-year-old school, said after the verdict, but he declined to discuss the case.

The school's attorney, Deborah E. Kane, said she and school officials would "consider all our options."

Kane disputed White's assertion that she was pressed to convert and told Judge James C. Cawood Jr. that the school had not breached its contract with White.

She said school officials wanted White in the classroom, where she was teaching science and other subjects. But, with a curriculum infused with religion, she needed to learn the religious material.

"Why was she fired? Because she could not lead a child to Christ," Kane said.

The jury deliberated for an hour after hearing two days of testimony. White filed her lawsuit in 1999, seeking $115,000.

Last month, the pastor of Odenton Baptist Church, the Rev. Timothy Yetter, was convicted of second-degree assault. He had been accused of beating an 8-year-old pupil on the buttocks 15 times with a 26-inch-long board in March because the boy disobeyed his teacher. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 15.

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