A former high-level Colorado jail employee refused an order allowing Muslim inmates to have prayer rugs and is suing his ex-employer for religious discrimination.
Now, Sterritt Fuller is suing the Adams County Sheriff’s office for religious discrimination against his own beliefs.
Fuller worked for the Sheriff’s Office and claims his supervisors labeled him a “Christian fanatic” and demoted him to a physically demanding job in a ploy to force him to resign. A spokesperson for the Adams County Sheriff’s Office said it was unable to comment on pending litigation.
Fuller claims he refused his former employer’s request for a Muslim prayer rug policy because it would unfairly favor Muslims and be unconstitutional. Though inmates had access to religious meals, books, and chaplains, the jail at the time did not allow inmates to have “secondary religious objects,” like rosaries or kippahs, according to the suit. Fuller claims he was told no such accommodations would be given to inmates of other religions.
Fuller said two of his former supervisors, who he is also suing, refuted his argument that the policy would be unconstitutional and said instead that his “fanatical Christian beliefs” were clouding his judgement and causing him to dislike Muslims.
“The jail knew that he was a Christian and they just assumed that the reason he was opposing the new policy was because of his Christian beliefs,” said Robert Liechty, Fuller’s lawyer. “He said, ‘No, my beliefs have nothing to do with it. This is just what the law is. If we buy secondary religious objects for one religion we have to buy it for the other religion. I have no problem with it, we just have to treat everyone the same.’”
Fuller was then placed on leave and subject to an internal affairs investigation. Fuller claims his supervisors told the investigator that he “had it out for Muslims” and had a “meltdown” over the prayer rugs issue.
When he returned to work four months later, Fuller claims he was demoted to work as a detention specialist, a position which allegedly required him to stand for several hours, despite suffering from degenerative disc disease and arthritis in his knees.
The standing caused him “extreme pain,” according to the suit, and Fuller said his field training officers told him that his supervisor had moved him to the new position to get him to quit.
“It’s kind of the opposite of what you would think,” Liechty said. “They got rid of him because they didn’t like the fact that he was a pretty conservative Christian. They thought, ‘Well that’s why you’re behaving this way.’ He said, ‘No it’s not, this is what the law is.’”