Teachers’ Union Illegally Blocks Choices of Religious Objectors

September 18, 2014, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Shouldn’t Pennsylvania’s public schoolteachers have the right to choose what charities they financially support? Officials from the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), have answered an emphatic “no”—and, in doing so, have exceeded their authority.

That’s the crux of a lawsuit announced at a press conference in Harrisburg and filed in Lancaster County court today by the Fairness Center on behalf of two Pennsylvania teachers seeking to regain their rights and freedoms. Click here for a detailed backgrounder.

“I want freedom of choice—to be able to donate to the charity I choose,” commented Lancaster County teacher Chris Meier, one of two plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Both Meier and Jane Ladley, a retired teacher from Chester County, are religious objectors to the teachers’ union. In lieu of paying dues, the law allows for religious objectors to contribute to an IRS-approved charity of their choice. But their money is being held in escrow by the PSEA, rather than being forwarded to the charities Meier and Ladley have chosen as state law permits.

The only restriction the law specifies is that it must be a “nonreligious charity.” Both Meier and Ladley have selected nonreligious charities to receive their money, but officials from the PSEA have refused to release their funds and have suggested their own charities.

Meier and Ladley’s request is simple: They should be free to choose the charity they support. It is their money, it is their choice, and the law is on their side.

“They are telling me which groups I have to choose,” Ladley remarked. “It’s a wrong that needs to be righted. I’m doing this on principle and for the other teachers coming up through the ranks, so that they have these options available to them.”

The full text of the complaint to be filed in Lancaster County court is available here.

Press Conference in Harrisburg Today at 11 a.m.

Ladley will be joined by Nate Bohlander, Esq., assistant general counsel for the Fairness Center, at 11:00 a.m. today for a press conference explaining the details of the lawsuit. Meier will also be available for comment later in the day, but is unable to attend in person because of his teaching duties.

Location: Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Building, First Floor, 225 State Street, Harrisburg, Pa, 17101

The Plaintiffs

Jane Ladley is a 25-year veteran of the Pennsylvania public school system. She recently retired from Avon Grove School District in Chester County, not long after the district went “agency shop,” requiring all teachers to either join the teachers unions or pay a lesser “fair share fee.”

Ladley’s status as a religious objector to the union was accepted by the PSEA in 2013 and her money, rather than funding her chosen charity, has been held in escrow since then.

Chris Meier, a father of three, currently teaches history and economics at Penn Manor High School in Lancaster County, where he has been employed for the last ten years. He is also a “bona fide religious objector” whose charity of choice has been arbitrarily rejected by the PSEA.

The Fairness Center

The Fairness Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm offering free legal services to those facing unjust treatment from public employee union leaders. For more information visit www.FairnessCenter.org.

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The Fairness Center can be reached at (844) 293-1001 or media@fairnesscenter.org.