US judge sends defiant airline lawyers for ‘religious liberty’ training

Lawyers for a US airline which defied a court ban on religious discrimination have been ordered to undergo corrective training.

District Judge Brantley Starr found three lawyers at Southwest Airlines responsible for violating a Court order protecting religious liberty at the airline and sent them for training with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

In 2022, Judge Starr reinstated Southwest flight attendant Charlene Carter after she was sacked for her religious opposition to abortion. He also banned the airline from discriminating against attendants for their “religious practices and beliefs”.


In his latest ruling on the case, Judge Starr criticised the airline for suggesting to employees that the District Court for the Northern District of Texas had granted “Southwest a badge of honor for not discriminating”, which he stated: “the Court did not”.

He also censured Southwest for sending a memo to its flight attendants, “stating that its employees must abide by the types of policies over which Southwest fired Carter and that it believed its firing of Carter was justified because of those policies”.

He concluded: “It’s hard to see how Southwest could have violated the notice requirement more.”

“In the universe we live in—the one where words mean something— Southwest’s notice didn’t come close to complying with the Court’s order.”

Chronic failure

Judge Starr continued: “Southwest has long harbored the view—during trial, after the verdict, and (as evinced by its memo to flight attendants) even after the judgment—that its policies on civility trump federal laws”.

He added: “if Southwest continues to represent to its flight attendants that it may discriminate against them if they violate Southwest’s civility policies, Southwest will likely find itself (yet again) on the wrong side of the Court’s order”.

In light of the airline’s “chronic failure to understand the role of federal protections for religious freedom”, the judge deemed it appropriate for three Southwest lawyers to receive training on religious freedom from ADF.

ADF’s chief legal counsel Jim Campbell said the group was happy to deliver the necessary training to help Southwest “respect religious liberty and diverse viewpoints in the workplace”. Southwest is to appeal the judgment.

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