St. Bonaventure University is named as a defendant in a lawsuit over allegations of religious discrimination.
According to a new lawsuit filed against St. Bonaventure University, one of its professors of communication was prevented from advancing in her career because of her gender and religion – Wicca. The suit was filed in a federal court in New York on behalf of Pauline Hoffman.
According to Hoffman, her relationship with fellow university administration members began going downhill around Halloween of 2011. During that time, she informed a university communications officer that “student journalists wanted to interview her about her Wiccan beliefs.” Soon after, she was asked by Mike Fischer, the provost at the time, allegedly “told her to sign a morals clause vowing to uphold the university’s Roman Catholic values.”
Startled, Hoffman asked if she “would have to sign the clause if she were Jewish — meaning not Catholic, but not Wiccan.” She was concerned she was being singled out due to her religion. In response to the question, Fischer said, “I guess not.” The suit also claims Fischer allegedly told her, “You might not want to be so overt about being a witch if you want to move up.”
It’s important to note that, while St. Bonaventure follows the Franciscan Catholic tradition, many members of the faculty and students do not follow the Roman Catholic faith. In fact, the “norm at Catholic colleges and universities is to have many non-Catholic professors.”
After she was asked to sign the morals document, Hoffman approached then president Sister Margaret Carney and asked her if “other employees would have to sign the morals document,” to which Sister Margaret allegedly told her it was just for her.
How did her faith prevent her from moving up in her career, though? Well, according to the suit, Hoffmann became dean of Jandoli School of Communication in 2012. She had that role “through 2017 but was first awarded only a two-year contract when all other male deans got three-year contracts,” the suit stated. Additionally, she also claims she “made less money as dean than all other deans on campus, who were male.”
On top of that, Hoffman claims in her suit that when she “sought a promotion to provost during her deanship,” she was denied. As a result of her experiences, “she believes St. Bonaventure discriminated against her for her beliefs” and even pressured her to resign as dean when her “new provost, Joe Zimmer, was rumored to have been told to solve the Pauline problem.”
According to Hoffman and her attorneys, “if the Pauline problem is that she’s a Wiccan, then that’s illegal.” Eventually, she ended up filing a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was granted the right to sue.