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First Liberty Institute’s Statement on Fired Substitute Teacher’s Reinstatement

After almost 5 years, settlement in religious discrimination lawsuit makes Walt Tutka eligible to teach again

May 12, 2017

May 12, 2017, Belvidere, NJ—After almost 5-years of litigation and negotiation, substitute teacher Walt Tutka has resolved his claim of religious discrimination against the Phillipsburg School District, allowing him to return to substitute teaching.

The following statement may be attributed to Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel to First Liberty Institute:

We are really pleased we accomplished the mission we set out to achieve—restoring Walt Tutka as a substitute teacher in Phillipsburg. We always knew Walt complied with all school district policies and federal laws, the EEOC agreed, and now Walt is returning to his service to the community in Phillipsburg. No one should be fired from their job because of their religious beliefs. Today, not only has Walt’s religious liberty been restored, he has been given the chance to do again what he loves the most: teaching the children of Phillipsburg School District.

The controversy started in 2012, when a student asked longtime substitute teacher Walt Tutka where in the Bible a famous quote could be found. Walt pulled out his personal Bible and showed the student so the student could look up the quote at home. When the student said he did not have a Bible, Walt spontaneously gave his Bible to the student to look up the quote “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Eventually, after being suspended by the school’s principal, the school board voted to terminate Tutka’s employment. On June 19, 2013, First Liberty Institute filed an official complaint on Tutka’s behalf to the EEOC, which issued a Final Determination letter in favor of Tutka in December 2014. Read that letter here.

More about Walt Tutka’s case can be found at

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First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

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