The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees led to the firing of a longtime teacher for noncompliance, and she now claims religious discrimination in a federal lawsuit.

Former studio classroom teacher Kelly Sledd filed suit Dec. 27 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Shelly Freeman of the Freeman Martin McKee LLC law firm in Kansas City represents the Nelson-Atkins in the case. Freeman said the museum declines to comment because the matter involves pending litigation. The museum has not filed an official response to the lawsuit.

In October 2021, the Nelson-Atkins informed employees that it was implementing a vaccine mandate. Sledd requested a religious exemption, saying that getting vaccinated conflicted with her sincerely held Christian beliefs.

Sledd claims that the Nelson-Atkins never met with her to discuss her religious beliefs, alternative protective measures other than being fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or reasonable accommodations.

Sledd claims museum officials stated that allowing her to continue teaching art classes without being fully vaccinated would create an undue hardship. Sledd also claims the museum allowed students to attend classes without a vaccination requirement and allowed the public to enter the museum regardless of their vaccination status.

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