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Federal complaint alleges racism and retaliation

By LorettaRodgers

lrodgers@chesterspirit.com

A local Presbyterian minister has filed a discrimination action with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

Rev. Richard Dalton, former interim pastor of the Thomas M. Thomas Memorial Presbyterian Church in Chester, is claiming racial discrimination and retaliation, alleging that the actions of the Presbytery violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in hampering his efforts to be hired as a pastor in an area Presbyterian church.

“I feel as though I am being retaliated against because of a previous suit I filed in reference to the hiring practices of the Presbytery of Philadelphia,” said Dalton, also a former staff member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization once headed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The initial suit Dalton referenced was filed in 2009 and eventually withdrawn. The complaint was filed because Dalton was not permitted to remain at Thomas M. Thomas, the lone Presbyterian church in Chester, as a “stated supply” pastor. He was appointed in 2007 as interim pastor, and even though he understood the church’s Book of Order states that an interim pastor is not eligible to serve that particular church as permanent or designated pastor, he felt the Thomas M. Thomas congregation was misled by the Presbytery.

“The (Presbytery’s) Committee on Ministry (COM) made the statement that I’d be considered for stated supply,” said Dalton at the time. “Unfortunately, they made the decision then engineered the process to eliminate my job. In other words, I was terminated because of mistakes they made,” he said.

Dalton said he met with the Presbytery and with Acting General Presbyter Al DerMovesesian, and as a result of that meeting there was a mutual understanding that mistakes had been made and it was time to move ahead. Dalton dropped the EEOC claim in a desire to move forward with his life, but he now believes the events of the past continue to follow him.

He firmly believes that he recently was not appointed stated supply pastor of a church in Philadelphia because of retaliation against him by the Presbytery.

Dalton was contacted on Feb. 25th by the search committee of the Bethel Presbyterian Church on West York St., Philadelphia, and asked to apply for the position of temporary stated supply pastor.

“I was not seeking employment,” said Dalton. “The church contacted me and asked me to come for an interview. I looked at the demographics which is an urban setting. I have 25 years of experience in urban ministry and felt it would be a perfect fit.”

Dalton said he interviewed twice by church representatives and the second time, Associate Executive for Mission Partnerships and Urban Ministry Bill Reinhold was present. Dalton claims Reinhold discussed the Thomas M. Thomas situation with Bethel’s search committee and said he was aware the COM had some reservations about Dalton’s fit with Bethel. Dalton said Reinhold encouraged the committee to ask about his experiences at Thomas M. Thomas.

For the story in it’s entirety pick up this week’s Chester Spirit.

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