WEST PALM BEACH - A former cashier for The Home Depot who has been wearing a "One nation under God" button on his work apron for more than a year has been fired, he says because of the religious reference. The company claims that expressing such personal beliefs is simply not allowed.
"I've worn it for well over a year and I support my country and God," Trevor Keezor said Tuesday. "I was just doing what I think every American should do, just love my country."
The American flag button Keezer wore in the Florida store since March 2008 says "One nation under God, indivisible."
Earlier this month, he began bringing a Bible to read during his lunch break at the store in the rural town of Okeechobee, about 140 miles north of Miami. That's when he says The Home Depot management told him he would have to remove the button.
Keezer refused, and he was fired on Oct. 23, he said.
"It feels kind of like a punishment, like I was punished for just loving my country," Keezer said.
A Home Depot spokesman said Keezer was fired because he violated the company's dress code.
"This associate chose to wear a button that expressed his religious beliefs. The issue is not whether or not we agree with the message on the button," Craig Fishel said. "That's not our place to say, which is exactly why we have a blanket policy, which is long-standing and well-communicated to our associates, that only company-provided pins and badges can be worn on our aprons."
Fishel said Keezer was offered a company-approved pin that said, "United We Stand," but he declined.
Keezer's lawyer, Kara Skorupa, said she planned to sue the Atlanta-based company.
"There are federal and state laws that protect against religious discrimination," Skorupa said. "It's not like he was out in the aisles preaching to people."
Keezer said he was working at the store to earn money for college, and wore the button to support his country and his 27-year-old brother, who is in the National Guard and is set to report in December for a second tour of duty in Iraq.
Skorupa noted the slogan on Keezer's pin is straight from the Pledge of Allegiance.
"These mottos and sayings that involve God, that's part of our country and historical fabric," Skorupa said. "In God we trust is on our money."
Michael Masinter, a civil rights and employment law professor at NOVA Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, said any lawsuit over religious discrimination might be a tough one to win.
"Because it's a private business, not one that's owned and operated by the government, it doesn't have to operate under the free speech provisions of the First Amendment," Masinter said.
"But we're not talking about religious displays here," he said. "This sounds more like a political message ... Wearing a button of that sort would not easily be described as a traditional form of religious expression like wearing a cross or wearing a yarmulke."