A former police officer is taking his employer to court after being fired over his refusal to engage in one-on-one training with a female rookie cop.
Manuel Torres, 51, claims that he should have been granted “religious accommodation” after choosing to observe the “Billy Graham Rule.” The rule, coined by the late evangelist Billy Graham, prohibits married men from spending time alone with a woman other than their wife in a bid to protect them from the risk of infidelity.
The training Torres was instructed to carry out required that he “spend significant periods of time alone in his patrol car with the female officer trainee.”
As a result, Torres refused, citing personal religious reasons.
According to the lawsuit, the former police officer “holds the strong and sincere religious belief that the Holy Bible prohibits him, a married man, from being alone for extended periods of time with a female who is not his wife.”
The lawsuit claims that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office went back and forth between granting the exception and refusing it, before ultimately firing Torres “without explanation.”
Torres also stated that a colleague failed to give him back up at “multi-vehicle accident in an unsafe area,” because of the accommodation.
Experts believe that this could be the first-ever lawsuit involving the “Bill Graham Rule,” which became widely known after Vice President Mike Pence revealed he followed the guideline himself.
Many, however, were in agreement with Pence’s decision to never spend time alone with another woman. According to a New York Times poll at the time, 60 percent of women and 48 percent of men thought it inappropriate to have a drink alone with someone “who is not your spouse.”
According to a University of Toledo law professor, Howard Friedman, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act “requires a reasonable accommodation” in these types of cases.
“This is a public official who is invoking religious free exercise to avoid carrying out a part of his employment duties,” Friedman told Christianity Today.
The professor added that the intriguing case was just one example of a growing number of incidents where “religious freedom clashes with non-discrimination norms.”
Torres’ pastor Robbie Gibson insisted that the former police officer was just “a man who is genuinely trying to walk his faith out in everyday life.”
The police have yet to respond to the filed suit, which is seeking $300,000 in compensatory damages and over $15,000 in punitive damages.
Is the Billy Graham Rule sexist?
Many critics of the rule argue that it works on the presumption that women are viewed solely on their physical appearance and are unfairly labeled as being a “temptation.” It also assumes that men are of inherently dreadful character, perpetually prone to lusting after other women and unable to act platonically with those of the opposite sex.
“While I have tremendous respect for men who place their marriages before their work, such a rule befits the world of Mad Men more than the modern-day work world where women are to be treated as equals,” commented Karen Swallow-Prior at Vox. “But even more importantly, good character is even more trustworthy than the most well-intentioned rules.”
Indeed, a quick Twitter search churns up a series of unpleasant experiences that women have been through as a result of the rule. One lady, Lauren Chastain, recalled how three senior male members walked straight past her in a church hallway, despite the fact she was in obvious distress.
“I am created in the image of God. The Imago Dei. I am not temptation,” she tweeted. “These men have been taught to view me as dangerous. The enemy. A potential mistake.”
Chastain added that she was “saddened by the multitude of women that have also felt this dismissive objectification.”
“I choose to hope for healing in the body of Christ,” she wrote. “Lord hear our prayers!”