Southwest's 'gripe' over religious liberty training requirement is rejected by a judge

In a religious discrimination case brought by a former flight attendant against Southwest Airlines Inc., a Texas federal judge has denied the company's motion to stay his order, which required three in-house lawyers to attend an eight-hour religious liberty training session by September 26th. 


The lawyers were involved in the case and had previously failed to notify employees of their rights against religious discrimination, as ordered by the judge. The training session will be conducted by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian group. 

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Southwest Airlines has appealed the ruling and will likely seek a stay from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The former flight attendant, Charlene Carter, sued the airline in 2017 for firing her after she objected on religious grounds to her union's participation in a protest sponsored by Planned Parenthood. Last year, a jury ruled in her favor and awarded her $800,000 in damages. Judge Brantley Starr had also ordered Southwest to reinstate Carter. Southwest is appealing these decisions as well. 

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A judicial reform advocacy group has filed a complaint against Starr, accusing him of misconduct for ordering the religious training, but Starr has not commented on the complaint. Southwest argued that the training order lacked a remedy for Carter and violated the company's free-speech rights under the First Amendment. The airline also claimed that the order was unprecedented because Alliance Defending Freedom is known for its specific ideological viewpoint. However, Starr rejected these claims and said that the sanction did not violate Southwest's free-speech rights because it did not stop the airline from engaging in speech or force it to say anything specific. The case is Carter v. Southwest Airlines Inc. and is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

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