Lawsuit accuses orchestra of violating law protecting religious faith


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A lawsuit has been against the Naples Philharmonic accusing the orchestra of imposing a no-exemption COVID vaccination mandate on employees and job applicants in “willful and reckless disregard of state and federal law.”

The filing, from Liberty Counsel, was submitted to U.S. District Court on behalf of three former employees who faced discrimination because of their sincere religious objections.

“The employees – a clarinet, a violin and a viola player – are seeking reinstatement to their tenured jobs, and compensatory and punitive damages against Artis-Naples for its willful and flagrant violation of the law,” the statement from Liberty Counsel said.

The case was filed on behalf of Ashley Leigh, Erik Berg and James Griffith.

The musical organization is based in southwest Florida, and is accused in the filing of violating Florida and federal laws by dismissing the three musicians over its COVID-19 shot mandate.

“The three plaintiffs were longstanding musicians for the Naples Philharmonic for a combination of 82 years,” Liberty Counsel reported. “As committed Christians, they will not violate their religious convictions and accept the COVID injections, all of which are associated with aborted fetal cells.”

The orchestra, refusing religious exemptions, first put them on an involuntary leave, prohibiting them from working.

When Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter on May 16 to have them reinstated, it shortly later terminated them.

The orchestra refused to allow them to even take the same precautions allowed for its patrons when attending concerts and sharing the room with musicians.

The orchestra ignored Liberty Counsel’s letter.

“Naples Philharmonic is violating the federal law known as Title VII and Florida law that mandates employers to provide accommodation to employees who object to the COVID shots,” Liberty Counsel explained.

It is a relatively new state law, adopted last year, that explains in Florida that there is an “automatic, non-discretionary legal obligation” of all employers to exempt employees from workplace COVID-19 vaccination requirements based on the employees’ religious beliefs or agreement to undergo periodic testing.”

Liberty Counsel explained the law provides no option for employers not to comply.

“In addition, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits Artis-Naples from discriminating against its employees on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs,” the legal team said.

Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel chairman, said, “No one should be forced to inject this or any substance in their bodies, especially when doing so violates their sincere religious beliefs. It is wrong to violate the fundamental right to free and informed consent and bully people into compliance. Artis-Naples is unlawfully discriminating against the religious beliefs of its employees while allowing patrons to be unvaccinated.”

WND left a message requesting a comment from the orchestra.

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