A police officer in North Carolina is suing for religious discrimination after being fired for following the “Billy Graham rule.”

The officer in question is 51-year-old Manuel Torres, who served as a deputy for the Lee County Sheriff’s office for five years. He was then asked to train a new female deputy in July of 2017, but refused to do so on religious grounds. Torres, a practicing Baptist, cited that his belief is that “the Holy Bible prohibits him, as a married man, from being alone for extended periods with a female who is not his wife.”

What Torres cited is more commonly known as the “Billy Graham Rule,” named after Evangelical pastor who was known for the practice himself. It is also a practice that has received more attention in the last few years, with Vice President Mike Pence reportedly following the rule himself.

Torres also serves as a deacon at his local church and said in his suit that training the new deputy alone would appear to have committed “sinful conduct.”

Torres alleges in the suit that he did request a religious accommodation regarding the request, and his sergeant “alternately granted and denied” the request. This was followed by his superiors allegedly expressing their “anger” of Torres’ beliefs before he was ultimately fired in September of 2017. And while Torres did try to get at two other police departments, he claims that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office provided false and negative referrals when the prospective departments reached out to learn more about Torres.

The suit will mark the first time the rule has been brought to the court on the grounds of religious discrimination. Torres is seeking monetary relief, damages for emotional distress, and compensation for future and lost wages as part of the suit.

The Rev. Billy Graham The Rev. Billy Graham Photo: Getty Images