By Ruth Ferguson
Last month in hopes of avoiding an ugly day in court, Friendship West Baptist Church reached a tentative agreement with Elizabeth Payne, the terminated secretary over her wrongful termination lawsuit. However, on this week Susan Hutchinson, a lawyer representing Payne informed U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle the settlement between the two parties had fallen apart. The only reason provided was the inability to reach an agreement regarding non-monetary provisions.
The matter was originally scheduled to go to trial on July 19, but on July 14 a settlement was announced.
Payne worked as an executive-assistant to Rev. Freddie Haynes for only seven months before she was fired in August 2008. She alleges she was fired when church officials discovered she was exchanging sexually related emails with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and racism by the primarily African American staff. Payne is Hispanic.
The church however indicates racism was not a factor and they did not know anything about the email exchanges with Rev. Wright prior to Payne’s firing. They maintain she was fired because of poor performance.
If the matter proceeds to court, the emails will be made public when entered as evidence during the trial.
Rev. Wright and Payne met during one of his appearances at Friendship West, where he frequently appears due to his close relationship with Rev. Haynes.
During the 2008 presidential election, Rev. Wright was at the center of a firestorm surrounding then Senator Barack Obama as a result of sermon clips discovered on YouTube. Eventually Sen. Obama distanced himself from Rev. Wright and his family withdrew their membership from Trinity United Church of Christ.