Woman claims bias in firing from clinic

The collision of two faiths inside a Nashville methadone clinic created a hostile climate that cost a woman her job, according to discrimination claims she filed last week in U.S. District Court.

Lana Bogan describes herself as a member of the Baha'i faith, a religion with 6 million adherents worldwide. While she was working at the Middle Tennessee Treatment Center, though, her co-workers and supervisor clearly had more mainstream religious preferences, federal court records show.

She says that she lost her job in December 2002 for a variety of reasons: her gender, a ''perceived disability as a cancer survivor and on the basis of her faith.''

When she was terminated, she says, her supervisor, Rusty Titsworth, blended in his Christian beliefs. Her complaint states that a letter from Titsworth that accompanied her termination notice said, ''You indicated that you did not believe in Satan, or understand how something good would not be of God. In many ways I hope you are able to see through some seemingly good decisions you have come across something that will probably be most difficult to understand.''

The letter continues: ''Realize why Jesus Came. Recognize his Holy Name. Receive Jesus Christ into your heart. Rely on Jesus every day.''

The atmosphere at the Charlotte Avenue drug-treatment clinic constituted religious discrimination, Bogan contends in her lawsuit. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated her charges earlier this year and issued her a ''right-to-sue'' letter.

Titsworth disputes charges of religious discrimination.

''That's a stretch,'' said Titsworth, who no longer works at the clinic. He said that the workplace disagreements with Bogan were more complex, but he declined to give details Friday. Furthermore, he said, when he was there, the clinic staff did not try to suppress religious beliefs; rather, it ''valued a large variety of insights.''

Titsworth was not named as a defendant in Bogan's lawsuit.

Attempts by The Tennessean to reach clinic officials by telephone and facsimile Friday were unsuccessful.

Bogan belongs to a faith that originated in Persia in the 19th century. As Christianity was born of Judaism, Baha'i grew out of Islam.

But it embraces many religious traditions: ''The Baha'i Faith is perhaps unique in that it unreservedly accepts the validity of the other great faiths,'' states the faith's online literature. ''Baha'i's believe that Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus and Muhammad are all equally authentic messengers of one God.''

That was not a view shared by Bogan's co-workers, according to her suit. It says that other staffers told Bogan that they were praying for her soul, that they thought she belonged to a ''weird cult,'' that she was ''following the Antichrist.'' The office manager gave her a framed picture of Jesus, the complaint states.

Bogan says she was too intimidated to complain because she feared that doing so would cost her a job.

When she was terminated in early December last year, she says, she was told that the action was taken before the Christmas season ''because Plaintiff's presence would 'ruin the Defendant's employees' holiday,' '' according to the lawsuit.

Bogan is asking for unspecified monetary damages.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger.