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Bus driver says he was fired over Planned Parenthood dispute

By Dana Ford, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Minister says he lost his job after he refused to "take someone to have an abortion"
  • He had been assigned to drive a woman to a Planned Parenthood office
  • Planned Parenthood provides a range of services, including those related to abortion

(CNN) -- A Texas bus driver has filed a lawsuit against his former employer, claiming he was fired for his religious beliefs after refusing to transport a client to a Planned Parenthood office, court documents showed Wednesday.

Edwin A. Graning worked for the Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) near Austin, Texas, for less than a year before he was let go in January. At the time, he told his supervisor that, "in good conscience, he could not take someone to have an abortion," according to the lawsuit. Graning is an ordained Christian minister.

Planned Parenthood, a health care provider that offers a range of medical services to women, including those related to abortion, often draws the ire of anti-abortion groups in the United States, where the procedure is legal but fiercely controversial.

Graning's last day of employment was the same day he refused service.

He is seeking reinstatement, back pay, and compensatory damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress.

"It's only because he voiced his religions beliefs that he was canned," Edward White III, Graning's lawyer, told CNN. "Employers have a legal responsibility to at least attempt to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs. ... CARTS clearly violated Mr. Graning's religious freedom."

White, who works for a public interest law group founded by evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson, said CARTS sent a second driver to collect the client and took her and a friend to the Planned Parenthood office.

"While others may wish to make more of it, to CARTS this is just about our expectation that employees perform the duties they are hired for," David Marsh, general manager of CARTS, said in an e-mail message to CNN.

In addition to rides along fixed routes, CARTS offers some door-to-door service within its rural coverage area.

The lawsuit, in the U.S. District Court for western Texas, Austin Division, was filed on July 14.

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