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Witch Sues University for Religious Discrimination

July 15th, 2019 Victoria Breese

Pauline Hoffmann, a witch and professor at St. Bonaventure University in New York, has sued her employer for religious discrimination. Hoffman has been a self-identified witch and practicing Wiccan for over 20 years. She first began to feel discriminated against shortly after the Fall of 2011 when she told a university communications officer that student journalists would interview her about her Wiccan faith during Halloween. The following semester, the then-provost of the university asked her to sign a “morals clause,” which stated her promise to uphold the university’s Catholic values. 

Double Standard for Witch Professor

In her recently filed lawsuit, Hoffman described several alleged instances of religious discrimination due to her Wiccanism. After she was asked to sign the morals clause, she became worried that she was being singled out for her religion. So, she asked if she would also have to sign the clause if she were Jewish. The provost allegedly responded, “I guess not.” On another occasion, the provost allegedly told her “You might not want to be so overt about being a witch if you want to move up.” Hoffman then asked a religious sister who also worked at the university if other employees had to sign the morals clause. Allegedly, the sister said the clause was just for Hoffman and that the university “took a big chance hiring you as a Wiccan.”

Religious Discrimination Law

Title VII states that it’s unlawful “for an employer … to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s  . . . religion.” In response to Hoffman’s case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated that, regarding “Title VII, religion includes not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others.” So, even though Wicca is a smaller religion, Wiccans are still legally protected from religious discrimination in the workplace. However, an important fact for Hoffman’s case is that Title VII does not apply to religious educational institutions like St. Bonaventure University. However, there are other non-Catholic professors at the university who are not discriminated against, so it seems that Hoffman is being targeted for specifically being Wiccan. Therefore, the court may still rule in her favor. 

Seek Legal Assistance

If you have experienced religious discrimination in the workplace, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel. You don’t pay unless we win.