Alaska Airlines Was Once a Company that Really Believed in Religious Inclusion

March 1, 2024
Alaska Airlines | First Liberty Insider

by Jorge Gomez • 4 min read

First Liberty is fighting in federal court right now on behalf of two former Alaska Airlines flight attendants, Lacey Smith and Marli Brown. The airline wrongfully fired them after they questioned the company’s support for the “Equality Act,” an extreme proposal to remove religious liberty protection in federal laws from all Americans in every LGBT matter.

The company has embraced woke ideology and “inclusion,” while punishing those with a religious point of view. By firing our clients, Alaska Airlines sent a chilling message: If you’re not woke, you’re not welcome.

But that wasn’t always the case. A glimpse into the company’s history shows it was once a place that respected religious freedom. At one point, the airline embraced people of faith and religious expression, from its top leaders all the way to its passengers.

Bruce R. Kennedy served as the company’s CEO from 1979 to 1991, one of the strongest periods in Alaska Airline’s history. He’s credited with transforming Alaska into a world class airline.

Kennedy was known as a man of faith. He was a member of the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church for many years and an elder in John Knox Church in Seattle at the time of his death.

The President of Mission Aviation Fellowship, of which Kennedy was a member, once said:

“Kennedy didn’t separate his faith from his professional, civic or personal life. His spirituality and the rest of his life were integrated, not compartmentalized. He was open about his faith, not forcing it on others, but was bold enough that people knew what – or more precisely, Who – he stood for.”

Throughout Kennedy’s tenure, the Airline included a “prayer card” with a Psalm with each meal it handed out to passengers. This was an exceptional practice by the airline that lasted 30 years. However, after a leadership change, it discontinued that tradition in 2012.

“Some of you enjoy the cards and associate them with our service,” Alaska’s CEO and President wrote at the time. “At the same time, we’ve heard from many of you who believe religion is inappropriate on an airplane.”

First Liberty Insider | Alaska Airlines Prayer Cards

At the end of World War II, Alaska Airlines helped relocate persecuted religious minorities. In 1949, the airline launched “Operation Magic Carpet,” which transported 49,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel.

The company’s president at the time, James Wooten, was a key player in that humanitarian effort. One Rabbi recounted the impact Wooten had on his life and the Jewish community:

“My business is knowing about the miracles that happen every day. One of those miracles was Alaska Airlines delivering the Yemenite Jews to the land of their ancestors. That was a man doing God’s holy work on this earth. What he did as a human being is the essence of religion and I am honoring that man’s memory by carrying his obituary with me.”

But that was then, and this is now. The same airline that once helped Yemenite Jews escape from persecution is now firing people of faith who express their beliefs.

The case of our two Alaska Airlines flight attendants shows the threat woke corporations pose to the freedom and the rights of religious Americans.

And if you think what happened to Lacey and Marli won’t happen to you, think again.

It doesn’t matter that a company has a rich religious heritage. In today’s woke corporate cancel culture, there’s simply no inclusion or tolerance for anyone expressing a religious perspective.

Please consider supporting First Liberty’s ongoing defense of Lacey, Marli and all religious employees to stop this growing trend. Americans should NOT fear being fired because of their faith. Firing someone over their religious beliefs is illegal.

That’s why we’re fighting this in federal court right now. It’s a huge case. Winning it could deliver freedom for our clients—and potentially impact many more American workers fired for their faith. Give to First Liberty today.

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