RELIGION

Jury in Kansas rejects bias claim against Kobach's office

Jurors on Thursday rejected a former employee's claim that she was fired from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office in part because she didn't attend church.

The jury rejected Courtney Canfield's claim in a federal lawsuit she filed against the office and chief Kobach deputy Eric Rucker that religious discrimination was a key factor for her firing in November 2013. Kobach was not named in the lawsuit.

The secretary of state's office argued during the trial that performance issues led to Canfield's firing after 9½ months on the job.

Canfield declined to comment and left the courthouse after the verdict was reached, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Rucker asked Canfield's grandmother, who was a friend, to tell Rucker she was being fired. The grandmother testified that Rucker told her that Canfield's lack of regular church attendance was a reason for her firing.

Rucker testified that he dismissed Canfield largely because of work performance issues, such as frequently missing work, using her cellphone during work and not getting along with co-workers. He said the subject of church attendance came up only when Canfield's grandmother mentioned it in telling him that Canfield's life was a mess.

Kobach, a Republican, didn't testify in the trial but said in answering questions under oath for attorneys in June that he had "very limited interaction" with Canfield and wasn't notified when she was hired for an "entry level" job in the elections division. Kobach also said he would fire any supervisor who used religion as a reason to terminate an employee.

Kobach said in a statement Thursday that he was "very pleased" with the jury's decision, which he said showed courts "remain an effective institution for finding out the truth."

"Oftentimes frivolous claims like this are made in the hope that the defendant would settle and pay out money," Kobach said. "That is not my view. We have to protect the taxpayer's dollars and fight baseless lawsuits like this one."

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com