Two house cleaners want a Tennessee pastor held accountable after they said they were asked to leave the pastor’s home because his “dog doesn’t like black people.”
The women are asking that Rev. Jacek Kowal, priest of the Catholic Church of the Incarnation in Collierville, be disciplined and that the Catholic Diocese of Memphis pay them for compensatory damages and attorney’s fees, according to The Commercial Appeal.
The dispute dates back to an incident in May involving Master Building Service Contractors employees Emily Weaver, who is white, and LaShundra Allen, who is Black.
The women said they ran into problems when Weaver, who normally cleans Kowal’s house, took Allen to the home instead to train her as a replacement, The Commercial Appeal reported.
The women claimed in a letter to the Diocese in July that’s when Kowal’s secretary told them, “I’m sorry, we are not trying to be rude, but the dog doesn’t like black people.”
Although Kowal vehemently denies he is racist, he didn’t refute the women’s claim about the dog in a letter to The Commercial Appeal.
“As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I wholeheartedly believe all forms of discrimination based upon race or ethnicity are sinful and wrong,” Kowal wrote. “As a pastor, I have ministered to, employed and worked with numerous African Americans. Their claim that I didn’t want an African American to clean my rectory is simply not true.”
He told the newspaper he was legitimately concerned his dog could harm the women and that he had adopted the dog named Ceaser in 2012 after he once “had a bad experience with a stranger who happened to be African American.”
“Since that time, Ceaser has been aggressive with strangers until he gets to know them,” Kowal wrote. “And this is especially true for strangers that happen to be African American.”
The women said in their letter they were asked to leave and that they were both “shocked, humiliated, and felt severely disrespected by this treatment and the statements.”
“In no uncertain terms, Father Jacek knew that an African American woman was about to clean his home,” the women said in the letter. “He made no effort to come meet Ms. Allen. He made no effort to correct any statement about his dog being a ‘racist.’”
The women go on to say that “it is quite easy to see the racism in this exchange.”
Allen told The Commercial Appeal she’s never experienced racial discrimination before and certainly not from a pastor and his church staff.
“It made me feel so bad as a person. It made me feel really low, really, really low,” Allen said. “I believe they need to lose their jobs. I don’t see how they can be around — and mind you that school has black kids in that school, kids of various colors in that school. How are you OK teaching kids of color but not OK with someone of color cleaning your house?”