When Ryan Coleman took a job with Dahled Up Construction, he says the own never told him along with painting he would have to attend a weekly Bible study — and when he finally refused to go, Coleman lost his job.
According to Coleman and his lawsuit, owner Joel Dahl told him all employees were required to partake in regular Bible study sessions led by a Christian pastor during the work day, while on the clock.
Coleman told Dahl that the requirement was illegal, but Dahl wouldn’t budge, according to the lawsuit. In order to keep his job, Coleman obliged for nearly six months but ultimately told Dahl he couldn’t go, the suit says.
After telling Dahl the Bible studies were not for him, Coleman said his boss responded with, “Well, I’m going to have to replace you.”
“He said ‘You’re not going to tell me how to run my own company,’” Coleman continued. “I said ‘I’m not trying to tell you how to run your own company, but you’re not going to tell me what god to pray to.’”
Coleman, who is half white and half Native American, said his religious beliefs align with his Cherokee and Blackfoot heritage.
“This is so illegal,” said Corinne Schram, a Portland attorney representing Coleman. “Unless you are a religious organization like a church, you cannot force your employees to participate in religious activities.”
However Dahl’s attorney, Kent Hickam, said the practice is legal because Dahl pays his employees to attend the Bible study.
“Mr. Dahl feels that it’s unfortunate that he (Coleman) is now trying to exploit Mr. Dahl’s honorable intentions for unjustified financial gain,” Hickman said.
Dahl told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he’d struggled with drugs and alcohol and served time in prison for attempted second-degree assault. He said he’s been clean and sober for seven years. He started his company in 2016, with the idea of helping other convicted felons or people who’ve battled addictions rebuild their lives.
“I’m a second-chance employer,” Dahl said. (Joel Dahl says he’s not related to another second-chance employer, Dave Dahl of Dave’s Killer Bread.)
Coleman has served prison time himself, he told The Oregonian, for delivery of methamphetamine and child neglect.
But he says he has been clean for four years and just won back full custody of his children earlier this week.
Coleman said he only stuck with the hour-long meetings for as long as did because he thought his history might keep him from finding work.