PJI Joins Defense of Christian Company Owner in Bible Study Case

Salem, OR–The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) has joined in the defense of a Christian construction company’s owner in a case that has generated national attention.

Joel Dahl is the owner and sole officer of Dahled Up Construction, a corporation headquartered in Albany, Oregon. A former prison inmate who turned his life around after embracing Christianity, Dahl operates his company in accordance with Christian principles—his company’s logo, in fact, even has a cross where the second “t” in “construction” would be. Many of the people he employs are former inmates like him whose job prospects are limited due to their criminal histories.
Dahled Up hires employees without regard to religion. However, in accordance with its mission to help people who were once in Dahl’s position find the path of the straight and narrow, the company encourages its employees to attend a weekly Bible study to be exposed to the moral lessons the Bible teaches. The study takes place during working hours, and employees who attend receive pay. Although many Dahled Up employees willingly attend the Bible study as they seek to make positive changes in their own lives, the practice came under fire in August when Ryan Coleman, a former Dahled Up employee, sued the company, claiming that Dahled Up discriminated against him by requiring him to attend the Bible study. Coleman later amended his civil complaint to include a claim against Dahl himself as well as his company.

When Coleman initially filed his lawsuit, the story caught the attention of national media, including the Washington Post. Though Dahl’s company was already represented by an Oregon attorney at the time, Dahl asked PJI to assist with the defense of both himself and his company due to PJI’s expertise in the area of religious liberty. PJI attorney Ray Hacke thus filed a motion last week in an Oregon state court to dismiss Coleman’s claim that Dahl “aided and abetted” his company’s alleged religious discrimination toward Coleman.

“Joel Dahl hopes to do more with his company than just construction work,” PJI President Brad Dacus said. “He hopes to help inmates who were once like him, and who might otherwise have difficulty finding work because of their past mistakes, find redemption. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held in recent years that Christian business owners are, for the most part, free to operate their companies in accordance with their faith’s principles. We hope to defend Mr. Dahl’s right to do the same, especially given the well-documented power of Christianity to transform even the vilest of offenders into model citizens.”

Companies interested in viewing PJI’s “Faith in the Workplace” training video can provide their information here. ​