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Church Tells New York State to Butt Out

BUFFALO (CN) - St. Matthew Lutheran Church claims the New York State Division of Human Rights has no right to intervene in an employment dispute between the church and the former principal of its "Christian Day School," whom it fired. The principal filed a complaint with the state Labor Department because as a church employee she did not qualify for unemployment insurance.

The church claims the principal was "terminated for failing to perform the duties of her job in accordance with the constitution, policies, and by-laws of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; failing to comply with the New York State Education Laws; and, further, by reason of her unprofessional and hurtful actions against both students and parents of St. Matthew."

The former principal, (nonparty) Kristen Nelson-McKenzie, filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, accusing the church of discrimination. The church denies that charge and adds "that respondent lacked jurisdiction over that which was alleged in the complaint in accordance with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment". It asks the Erie County Court to declare that the state is acting beyond its jurisdiction.

The church is represented by Carl Fretthold of Hamburg, N.Y.

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