Woman Claims She Was Fired by TSA for Being a Wiccan
Carole A. Smith said she lost her job at Albany International Airport after a series of events that started with a co-worker accusing her of casting a hex. Smith, reportedly one of the best at the airport in finding weapons and drugs, has been trying since June 2009 to get her job back.
Smith filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case is currently in the appeals process.
Selena Fox, senior minister of Circle Sanctuary church, and one of the country's preeminent Wiccan educators, said the issue here is freedom of religion.
"This is our first encounter with a religious discrimination issue regarding Wiccans and the TSA," Fox told AOL Travel News.
"She (Smith) was on the ball as a TSA person," Fox said, "She was protecting our country."
A proud Wiccan, Smith told MSNBC.com she was advised in March 2009 by a TSA official in Albany that she was being investigated for "workplace violence" after the co-worker, Smith's former mentor, accused her of casting a spell that broke the co-worker's car heater.
"I was dumbfounded," Smith said. "I told him, that's not what Wicca is. We don't cast spells. That's not witchcraft."
"I'm like, 'No.' I refused to do that. It's not up to me to teach her my religion," Smith said.
Insubordination was later listed as one of the reasons for her firing. But before that, Smith said she was subjected to harassment by co-workers as they heard about the complaint.
"Where did you park your broom?" Smith said one co-worker asked her. "Why don't you come to work in your pointy hat?"
Smith said she has three black cats, loved the show "Wicked," once dressed as a witch for Halloween and is not embarrassed about practicing Wicca. But bullying is something else.
After the initial complaint, Smith said she was written up on a number of minor disciplinary actions. In response, she became a whistleblower, including writing up a supervisor for leaving a gate open.
The TSA argued it had good reason to fire Smith. In a statement to AOL Travel News, the agency said an Administrative Law Judge ruled in Nov. 2010 in TSA's favor, "noting that her termination from TSA was non-discriminatory."
Because the decision is being appealed, the agency declined to comment further.
Fox said the church is providing Smith support as she tries to get her TSA job back.
"Religious discrimination is very much a part of this case; at the heart of it," Fox said. "The TSA has to uphold the constitution just like any other federal agency. We have freedom of religion protected, and it shouldn't get someone fired from their job."
Fox added the Wicca religion is often misunderstood. "It has nothing to do with negative things, with the devil or anything like that," she said.
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