Teacher Challenges Constitutionality of Ohio Law Forcing Public Employees to Pay Union Dues Unless Members of State-Approved Rel
**Columbus, OH (January 22, 2007)** — A St. Marys-area teacher today filed a federal complaint challenging the constitutionality of a statewide law denying public employees the right to a religious objection to paying union dues if they do not belong to certain state-approved religions.
With free legal help from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, Carol Katter, a 21-year veteran teacher in the St. Marys school district, filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio’s Eastern Division. Katter filed the complaint against top officials of the Ohio State Employment Relations Board (SERB) for religious discrimination in enforcing the contested statute.
SERB officials cannot claim ignorance, as the agency had recently been an incidental party to an earlier investigation and lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice and National Right to Work Foundation attorneys involving similar actions.
Katter filed a related charge this week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the Ohio Education Association (OEA) union, state affiliate of the National Education Association, challenging an attempt by union officials to divert her forced dues to the local union rather than a charity.
The federal court complaint spells out that, even though Katter is a lifelong Catholic, she was denied her right to an adequate religious accommodation. Katter believes that failing to divert her forced dues from the union contradicts her beliefs due to the union hierarchy’s support for abortion on demand.
Further still, an OEA union official told Katter that she must “change religions” in order to receive a religious accommodation before SERB. Katter’s complaint cites that the state’s discriminatory statute amounts to an unconstitutional establishment of religion, and seeks a federal injunction prohibiting SERB from further enforcing the law against other state employees.
“Carol Katter’s struggle underscores that Ohio employees still face an uphill battle when objecting to union affiliation on religious grounds,” stated National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. “Until Ohio passes a Right to Work law making union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary, such abuses will inevitably continue.”
Katter’s charge follows a federal court decree issued last fall that re-affirmed that all public sector employees who have sincere religious objections to union affiliation cannot be forced to associate with and pay dues to a union they find objectionable. That decree stemmed from another Foundation-assisted case challenging similar systematic religious discrimination throughout Ohio. However, for technical reasons, Ohio’s SERB itself was not formally bound by that decree even though it was well aware of its existence.