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Navajo Cites Religious Bias in his Firing

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - A Navajo welder and member of the Native American Church says he was fired after his company's human resources director told him "that he was in a cult and worshipped the devil."

Clyde Blackwater sued Process Equipment & Service Co. (PESCO) for religious discrimination in Federal Court.

"In or about June 2008, Mr. Blackwater was called to PESCO's Human Resources office and questioned about his religious beliefs by Human Resources Director Chris Wray," according to the complaint. "Mr. Blackwater responded by explaining that he was a member of the Native American Church of North America and he explained some of its beliefs and practices.

"Mr. Wray then asked Mr. Blackwater if he believed in God and that 'Jesus

Christ died for our sins.' Mr. Blackwater responded that he simply came to work at PESCO to make a living for himself and his family.

"Mr. Wray then told Mr. Blackwater that he was in a cult and worshipped the devil.

"Thereafter, Mr. Blackwater's supervisors, including but not limited to his foreman, Ben Jim, began to treat Mr. Blackwater differently and make comments to other employees about him practicing witchcraft and being a part of a Satanic cult."

Blackwater says the religious discrimination culminated in his firing. He says PESCO topped it off by writing to New Mexico Department of Workforce solutions Blackwater was the one who "had created a hostile work environment 'because he was known as a 'Medicine Man in his Native American faith.'"

He seeks punitive damages for religious discrimination civil rights violations. He is represented by Phillip B. Davis.

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