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Lancaster County teacher sues PSEA on religious grounds

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A Lancaster County man is one of two teachers who this morning filed a lawsuit against the state's largest teachers' union, claiming the organization is violating their rights as religious objectors.

The plaintiffs are Chris Meier, who teaches history and economics at Penn Manor High School in Lancaster County, where he has been employed for the last 10 years, and Jane Ladley, a 25-year veteran of the Pennsylvania public school system who recently retired from Avon Grove School District in Chester County, according to a news release.

Both are religious objectors to the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the release says, and, as such, the law allows them to contribute to an IRS-approved charity of their choice in lieu of paying dues. However, they say, PSEA is holding their money in escrow rather than forwarding it to the charities.

"The only restriction the law specifies is that it must be a 'nonreligious charity,'" the release says. According to the Fairness Center, which is representing the two, Meier selected the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which PSEA disallowed because it would be a conflict of interest. 

Ladley initially chose a scholarship fund for high school seniors interested in studying the U.S. Constitution, which was sponsored by a political organization. Told her choice must be nonpolitical, she then selected Constitutional Organization of Liberty and reports that the PSEA refused to respond, the release says.

“We’re reviewing this lawsuit, but the fact is that we’re just following the state law,” PSEA spokesman David Broderic said in an email. “We’ve always made every effort to accommodate these requests. We just need to make sure that they comply with the law.”

Broderic added that PSEA has “full confidence in the process we use,” and that of the 200 people who exercise the option, there are five whose requests are under review.

Editor's Note: This item was modified from its previous version to add comments from PSEA.

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