The Kroger supermarket chain has agreed to a settlement of $180,000 after two Christians who worked at a store in Conway, Arkansas claimed they were fired for religious discrimination after refusing to wear a work uniform with a pro-LGBTQ symbol on it… even though the company insists the symbol had absolutely nothing to do with LGBTQ anything.
It was just a multi-colored heart symbolizing their corporate values.
The facts don’t matter, though, because the Christians in question, Trudy Rickerd and Brenda Lawson, claim (wrongly) that they were being told to support LGBTQ rights (which they were not).
The lawsuit was filed in 2020 with the help of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It said that, beginning in April of 2019, employees at a Kroger in Conway were told to wear an apron that included this rainbow heart in the corner:
That’s not a rainbow flag. That’s not even a damn rainbow. That’s just a heart in multiple colors.
Kroger was very clear about the origin and meaning of that symbol:
Dating back to 2012, Kroger had been conducting market research to figure out how to better connect on an emotional level with its customers, according to court documents. By June 2018, Kroger had developed what the company called “Our Promise,” a customer service campaign based on four commitments, including to “improve every day” and to create a “friendly and caring environment,” according to a filing that includes facts generally agreed upon by the two parties.
To represent the four commitments, the company developed a heart-shaped logo with four different colors. That logo was placed on the new uniforms that were rolled out that year, but didn’t make it to the company’s Delta Division, which includes the Conway store, until 2019, according to court documents.
In other words, it was a perfectly non-controversial image that had nothing to do with sexuality.
Still, Lawson refused to wear it because she (wrongly) believed that this was an “endorsement of the LGBTQ community.” She asked if she could cover up the image with a name tag or not wear it at all, and her boss said no. She was eventually fired for violating their dress code.
Importantly, the lawsuit says other employees who covered up the heart with a name tag or just didn’t wear the apron were not punished. Lawson said she was punished because she requested a religious accommodation.
Rickerd’s case isn’t any different. She offered to wear a different apron at her own expense because she (wrongly) believed she was being asked to support LGBTQ people, but her boss said no and later fired her for violating the dress code, even though other employees who violated those rules but didn’t ask for a religious exemption weren’t punished at all.
Last week, rather than take this case to trial, the two sides settled the case: Kroger would agree to reasonable religious accommodations to their dress code, add a policy about that to their training for employees, and pay a fine of $180,000 that includes over $70,000 in back pay for each of the women to make up for the past two years when they were not working. In return, Kroger doesn’t have to admit to violating any law. Financially, this won’t affect the company one bit.
But let’s not pretend this is a victory against religious discrimination. This is the end result of two Christian bigots who insist that a symbol with multiple colors on it is inherently demanding their support for LGBTQ people. While companies should absolutely offer reasonable religious accommodations to employees, this is an unreasonable religious request. It opens the door to employees complaining that anything they don’t like is a violation of their faith no matter how irrational their logic is.
It’s the same broken-brain “everything is religious persecution” mentality that was used to fight COVID restrictions that applied to all people, putting entire communities in danger. Even today, it’s that mentality that’s being used to censor perfectly fine books in public school districts. Conservative Christians think everything is about them, and everything should be about them, and any reference to ideas they disagree with are inherently anti-Christian.
It’s the sort of arrogance we should expect from people who think their God created the entire universe yet has a personal stake in their individual lives.