Iowa jailer fired for Christian views
The official shared his religious beliefs about gay marriage and Islam online
An Iowa county jail administrator has filed a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination after he was fired for expressing his beliefs about same-sex relationships and Islam in online posts from nearly a decade ago.
In the legal complaint filed in federal district court on June 17, Dean Naylor claimed he lost his job as chief jailer for Muscatine County because of his off-duty public expression of his Christian beliefs. He had never received a negative performance review or been subject to any discipline for workplace misconduct. The largely rural county where he worked is in southeastern Iowa on the Mississippi River bordering Illinois.
According to the lawsuit, Naylor’s often blunt online statements made from 2013 to 2015 passed largely unnoticed for seven years until publication of an April 2020 local newspaper article that quoted several snippets from the postings, criticizing Naylor’s Biblical views on marriage, sexuality, salvation, and Christianity.
In a November 2013 Google Docs file, Naylor wrote about his Christian beliefs on eschatology, a term describing the theology of death, judgment, and the end of the world—a subject on which Christians disagree. He also addressed the fate of Muslims and other non-Christian believers. At one point, he wrote that “2 billion muslims … currently worshipping Satan … do not realize that they are actually worshipping Satan but they are being influenced now to kill and eradicate all Christians and Jews.”
Elsewhere, he critiqued social decay: “Our nation has taken prayer out of schools, authorized abortion (1973—Roe vs. Wade), allowed gay unions and fallen away from the principle of working to eat.”
Naylor posted later videos on YouTube in 2014 and 2015 on eschatology topics such as the rapture of believers and the second coming of Christ, but nothing else since that time. In none of the videos did he identify himself as an employee of the county or wear any item of clothing that would indicate where he worked.
After publication of the 2020 newspaper article, public officials quickly condemned the jailor’s private postings as hate speech. On April 23, 2020, county administrators notified him that they had received claims that “you made comments and posted derogatory comments regarding Muslims and homosexuals.”
A Muscatine County sheriff’s investigation concluded, among other findings, that even though they saw no evidence of discrimination by Naylor, others may think otherwise. “The public … now have a perception that individuals may be discriminated against due to their religious beliefs or lifestyle,” determined investigators with the Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs department. “Some members of the population believe that perception is reality.”
On May 1, 2020, Naylor was fired. A terse letter by then–Sheriff C.J. Ryan indicated that “continued employment was contrary to good order and discipline” and that Naylor “lacks credibility to function in a management role.” For nearly two years Naylor was unemployed before being hired as a postal employee in October 2021.
In the lawsuit, Pacific Justice Institute attorneys asked the court to rule that the county infringed on Naylor’s constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. They also argued that county officials violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a federal law that bars religious discrimination against employees. They seek damages for lost wages and other financial losses as a result of Naylor’s firing. (One of the attorneys, Ray Hacke, is also a WORLD correspondent.)
“Naylor did not forfeit his fundamental rights as a private citizen by virtue of accepting public employment,” Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, said in a statement. “The county’s actions jeopardize the core constitutional rights of every county employee and threaten such employees with punishment up to, and including, termination for simply exercising those rights.”
The county did not respond to a request for comment.
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