Forgiven By God, Shunned By Employer: The Firing Of Mrs. Jaretta Hamilton

The controversy over the firing of Southland Christian School teacher Mrs. Jaretta Hamilton in St. Cloud, Florida has definitely sparked debates concerning religion. The argument over whether or not she should have been fired is a tricky one, because we are dealing with morality more than any legal matter. This is a school whose mission does not necessarily concern policy, but ethics. Legally she has signed a contract, vowing to uphold the principles that the school desires to represent. Morally she has signed a contract that should be somewhat flexible considering judgment is frowned upon in Christianity. The final decision cannot be made based on Christian ethics, because Christian ethics can be very flexible. Mrs. Hamilton should have been fired from the Southland Christian School, but is entitled to compensation for the matter in which it was handled. The school was out of line to reveal the details of her termination without her consent: a direct violation of her right to privacy. Religion is irrelevant in this decision.

Religious arguments imply that the school’s policy is vague. Those that believe this would argue there should have been specificity in the contract. A list of which sins are acceptable and which sins are inexcusable should have been made clear for those signing such a vague and trapping piece of documentation. Under any Christian school’s belief the Bible is the primary book of regulation and the King James Version of the Holy Bible asserts in John 8:7, “He that is without sin among you, cast the first stone.” It also states in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one the spirit of meekness, lest thou also be tempted.”  We should have mercy on those that make mistakes, because it is possible that we will be tempted and fall to the same temptation, if not another. Southland Christian School did not have mercy on Mrs. Hamilton. To act as if our covering under the belief in God protects us from faults is out of line. All sin leads to the same result which is burning eternally in the Lake of Fire (Hell). Should we expel a child from school because they lied about their whereabouts, even if it was a “white” lie? Should we expel a child from taking a fellow students pencil without asking: Because the bottom line is if they didn’t ask then it was stealing, right?  The answer would be no, we should not expel them. We explain how what they did was wrong, and exhort them to learn from that slip-up. The alternative view on this matter is also supported by the Holy Bible. For some, this does not change opinions that her termination was just.

Parents speaking out on the issue support the action taken. When children are sent to a private school, parents have sent them there for specific reasons. There is a higher expectation for teachers and administration to act as an impeccable example in contrast to that of public school systems. According to the Public School Review, an online database that provides detailed outlines of public schools in the United States, explained that a big difference between public schools and private schools is the “financial support system.”  Public schools rely on the government, while private schools rely on tuition and funds from private resources, like religious organizations. If a religious organization is providing a majority of the financial support, than there is an expectation to uphold certain religious beliefs in that school. The Holy Bible is used in accordance with instruction to instill certain values in children that may be applied to everyday life, particularly in decision-making. They wouldn’t expect hypocritical instructors in the classroom because these are teachers who have voluntarily chosen to teach under this particular lens, being that flawless example of perfection in God’s eyes. Despite these facts, we cannot forget that these contracts do not make employees sinless. The Bible can be used to argue her firing, but it can also be used to defend it as well.

There is also a scripture in the King James Version of the Holy Bible in I Peter 2:18 which reads, “Servants, be ye subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and the gentle , but also to the forward.” Essentially this asserts that Mrs. Hamilton should have accepted her termination, whether it was right or wrong. Also in 1 Timothy 6:2, “And those that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.” This also applies directly to this situation, because Southland school is a “believing master” and Mrs. Hamilton the servant.  So which angle of the Bible would we choose? We cannot say because this would cause more discrepancy than the issue of termination alone. Arguments with a religious base are too problematic which is why we have to look at this from a strictly legal perspective. This credence is even implied by law.

The separation of church and state is a concept directly related to the First Amendment of the Constitution that gives citizens of the United States the right to practice their religion without government interference. This means the government should show no favoritism towards any particular religion in making a final ruling.  Mrs. Jaretta Hamilton lives in this country where she is free to work wherever she would like. It is our job to educate ourselves on the jobs we choose to work and contracts we voluntarily sign. At any time if we feel we cannot hold up the standards that contracts have limit us to, we also have the freedom to leave and work elsewhere. She chose to work at a Christian private school and serve as a “sinless” example of God’s creation for the students. This means extricating herself from sin altogether. She can only walk away from this establishment and encourage others not to send their children without defaming the school’s name. She cannot, however, force this school who is already firm in their beliefs to change their mission for her benefit. A contract is binding: she was rightfully fired.

The rules concerning her contract, however, did not excuse them from the violating her civil rights. I did some research. Invasion of privacy defined under the United States government includes two components: invasion of solitude and public disclosure. Invasion of solitude happens when a person is exposed to negative publicity. The perpetrator does this intentionally. Public disclosure is when private facts are unveiled to the general public and offends the targeted party. Many have argued that Jaretta is covered under HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Though this act does protect information kept by health care and health suppliers, it does not have anything to do with employer/employee confidentiality or leave programs. The Family and Medical Leave Act, modified in January of 2008, is the only order exclusively for those purposes. This law upholds that any information that an employer finds out about an employee regarding their leave should be handled as a confidential matter and kept separately from common files. Handling something confidentially does not mean informing faculty, staff, and students of the situation, nor does it mean making the dispute public. Mrs. Jaretta Hamilton’s situation has been broadcasted on national television. In addition to the violation of the FMLA act, Mrs. Hamilton is the victim of intrusion of solitude and public disclosure. She may have broken her contract, but that did not expunge her civil right to privacy.

One would expect a school grounded in “Christian principles” to practice the very guidelines for which they are expected to uphold.  However, the practices of Southland Christian School are inconsistent with the manner in which Ms. Hamilton was treated.    First of all,  lets refer back to the scripture mentioned earlier ,“He that is without sin among you, cast the first stone.”  In this parable, a woman was caught in a sinful act.  Yet is not the implication of this scripture reflective of the inherent sin that all have committed.  What administrator or employee can indicate that they are without sin?  What administrator or employee could state sign a contract agreeing to be without sin?  Are one’s thoughts monitored in this “holy arena” as well?  What human being born with a sinful nature could adhere to such standards? No one. Unfortunately is does not matter in this case.

I am almost certain when Mrs. Jaretta Hamilton went into the principal’s office to file for maternity leave that she did not expect to be questioned on the intimacy she’d had with her fiancé. I am even more certain that she didn’t expect to be fired for that intimacy, and then have her personal life divulged to the personnel during a routine staff meeting, and later to the general public. She broke her contract, bottom line. Nonetheless, fornication does not erase her civil right as an American citizen. Her termination was just, but the management of that termination was unjust. Compensation, however, cannot give back the emotional anguish that Mrs. Hamilton has experienced since her “sin” was made public.  If she is covered by the Blood of Jesus Christ and is forgiven by the Lord, why can’t Southland forgive her also? Surely God’s authority is more important than that of Southland Christian School.

“If we practice and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole
world will be blind and toothless.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

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