Fort Worth

Sex outside marriage, drinking, swearing? You can't work at Kenneth Copeland Ministries

Employees at Kenneth Copeland Ministries/Eagle Mountain International Church must sign a new code of conduct policy or being fired.
Employees at Kenneth Copeland Ministries/Eagle Mountain International Church must sign a new code of conduct policy or being fired.

Sex outside of marriage, use of pornography, drinking alcohol beverages, smoking, cursing or gambling could all leave you jobless at Kenneth Copeland Ministries/Eagle Mountain International Church — even if you do them on your own time.

An estimated 500 employees are being required to sign a new code of honor policy or be fired. A third option being offered: signing the pledge and getting help to follow the new policy, which the Star-Telegram obtained this week.

Employees will be required to decide what to do at an employee meeting scheduled Thursday.

Copeland ministry officials did not return telephone calls Tuesday or Wednesday for comment.

Employees were notified in late 2017 of the new policy, which amends older guidelines for new hires that were part of the organization for years.

The new standards require employees to "adhere to the biblical model of sexual purity, refraining from any use of pornography and from participation in any form of sexual conduct outside of the confines of marriage." Employees also must refrain from possession or consumption of any alcoholic beverages, any form of tobacco and illegal drugs.

Church officials are asking that employees not use profanity or abusive or threatening language on or off ministry property.

Gambling is not be allowed, according to the new guidelines, nor are lying, fraud, deception or misleading statements.

Employees who choose not to adhere to the new policies have to leave no later than March 12, according to the policy.

The older policy at the Copeland ministry, like those of other religious organizations, included requiring employees to follow the teachings of the Bible and attend a local church. At Copeland, employees were not to be seen at bars or out drinking alcohol.

"I was raised in that church so I thought I was doing the right thing even though I had some inner struggles with it," a former Copeland employee said about signing an employee policy in 2014. She asked that the Star-Telegram not use her name for fear of retaliation from church officials.

The ex-employee said the new guidelines step over the line.

"Just because you're a Christian, you shouldn't stop drinking," the former employee said. "It's sad because there will be some people who will be forced to leave and they've been there 20 to 30 years."

Codes of conduct are not unusual at religion-based organizations, but attorney Rob Hudson of Fort Worth said he rarely sees such a variety of restrictive measures. But he said religious organizations have special exemptions for discrimination on the basis of religion in hiring and discharge.

Hudson is an attorney with Hutchison & Stoy in Fort Worth, a firm that focuses on employee discrimination issues.

At Gateway Church in Southlake, the 600 employees have to follow a code of conduct policy. Gateway spokesman Lawrence Swicegood said church officials had no comment on the new policy at the Copeland ministry.

"Every company or organization has standards for their employees, what we have here is probably not the same standards at McDonald's," Swicegood said.

Gateway officials declined to release their code of conduct policy.

Hudson said, "Many would argue that there remains too much latitude for employer discrimination based on subjective interpretations of religious doctrine. It bears reminding that this country was founded on the notion that we are free to practice and/or disavow our religious beliefs without being punished pursuant to the subjective interpretations of clergy or government."

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390-7763, @mingoramirezjr