The planned appeal by Ron Hittle of Stockton, California comes after a three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the city last month, including its termination of the veteran firefighter back in 2011.
"The court held that the city was justified in terminating Chief Hittle because of the negative perception of others from his attendance at the religious conference,” explains attorney Kayla Toney, of First Liberty Institute, the law firm representing Hittle.
Hittle was serving as Stockton’s fire chief in 2010 when he was advised by a supervisor to find a resource to improve his leadership skills. He chose to attend a “Global Leadership Summit” at Willow Creek Church. He was then reprimanded, then terminated in 2011, for choosing a religious seminar over a secular one.
According to Toney, the panel’s ruling last month also claimed the training could not have benefitted the city because it was a faith-based event.
“We think that's wrong,” she tells AFN. “We think that violates Title VII and violates Chief Hittle's religious freedom, so we're asking the 9th circuit to fix its mistake."
First Liberty is asking the 9th Circuit to hear his case en banc, meaning a full panel of judges.