Daniel Berry was practicing his faith, but his employers felt he took it too far. They told him to keep his Bible tucked in a desk drawer, to take down a "Happy Birthday Jesus" sign, and to stop praying with clients. Berry didn't like the orders given by the Tehama County Department of Social Services, so he sued, claiming his First Amendment rights had been infringed. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against him in May, further affirming the limitations on overt Christian behavior by government employees.
The ruling was "clearly unreasonable," said one of Berry's attorneys, Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute in Sacramento, California. "There are government employees who are flagrantly demonstrative in regards to their sexual orientation. It's inequality to say employees of faith don't have that same right to exhibit who they are as a Christian."
Berry, who describes himself as an evangelical compelled to share his faith and pray with others, has worked for the Northern California county's social services since 1991 and continues to do so. In 1997, he was transferred to the employment services division, where he helps people transition out of welfare.
Beginning in 2001, Berry hosted informal and unscheduled prayer meetings in a conference room, even after the county told him he could not use the site. They said he should use a break room instead. Later that year, he challenged a departmental rule and placed a Bible on his desk and hung a Jesus sign on his cubicle. He was seen praying with clients. Berry had never been prevented from sharing his faith with coworkers. But the county strictly prohibited religious conversations with clients, because they feared such dialogue could be perceived as ...1
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