Arkansas officer fired for going to church? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Arkansas officer fired for going to church?

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The recent firing of a Mid-South police officer has sparked a series of questions about sick leave: Should the employer send someone to your house to make sure you're sick if you call in? Can you leave the house, if you call in sick?

The headline on this story was shocking, a police officer fired after going to church. Further complicating matters, he had a doctor's note, which meant he was excused from his job as a policeman.

The question became, can your boss fire you for going to church?

SOUND OFF: Was Officer Richardson fired over his faith?

This case might have human resource managers rewriting, or at least, editing their sick leave policies.

Rodney Richardson was let go from the Blytheville, Ark., Police Department, after he attended church Dec. 16, 2012. He had a doctor's note, excusing him from police work.

Folks at the Downtown Deli and Cafe at First and Main in Blytheville say he got a raw deal.

"What's the difference between sitting in your living room and taking medication or whatever the doctor tells you and going to church?  To me, that is my right.  Because I'm not out there making a living at that moment and I'm doing what the doctor told me," said resident Jack McBride.

But, the police department said Richardson violated the city's sick policy by going to church. On the Sunday in question, Blytheville Police reportedly sent a patrol car to the church, in neighboring Osceola where Richardson is a pastor.

He declined an on-camera interview for this story, but has previously said he came to church that Sunday, because he believes in the healing power of church.

Richardson's lawyer, Jim Harris, says his client got in trouble because the Police Chief thought he was at church preaching, earning money, when he should have been home dealing with his bronchitis.

"It's been our position that he was never preaching," Harris elaborated. "There's a huge difference between speaking or thanking a congregation versus being at the altar preaching.  And I don't think they had anyone that could actually testify factually that he was preaching."

When Tony Hollis heard the news, he couldn't believe it. Hollis is the vice president of the local NAACP, and used to attend the same church with Richardson. After talking with his friend, he concluded the police department had made a horrible mistake.

"Officer Rodney Richardson was fired for, I'm just going to call it like it is, he was fired for attending church," Hollis said. "I don't think it had to do with him violating the sick policy, the man had a valid excuse to be off from work and what he do with his own personal time, that's something that should have been allotted to him, if he wanted to attend church."

In the weeks following his firing, Richardson's faith would be tested.

Finally, on Jan. 24 at city hall, more than a month after his firing, a seven member appeals board would hear Richardson's case. Six of the seven members were present.

"And all six of them voted to re-instate Rodney to his position as well as awarded him back pay for the entire time he was off duty, which I think was the only right thing to do," Hollis said.

Richardson was immediately assigned to a Blytheville Middle School as a resource officer. His prayers for re-instatement had been answered.

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