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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition to stop retaliating against several African-American employees who are suing the group on charges of racial bias.

In a ruling issued July 30, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina found that the Coalition had retaliated against the employees who filed the lawsuit by slashing their hours in an effort to drive them off. Urbina ordered that the workers be returned to full-time hours.

"This is an indication that the Christian Coalition is in a world of trouble," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "Things have not been going well for Robertson's group these days, and this certainly doesn't help."

In February 10 black employees sued the Christian Coalition, alleging that the group had maintained discriminatory work policies. The women said they were required to enter the building through the back door, were told to eat lunch in a substandard, segregated facility and were denied health-care and overtime pay benefits that were extended to white employees.

After the suit was filed, the women say the Coalition retaliated against them by cutting their hours to half time. Some of the workers said they were forced to quit over the reduced hours and seek full-time work elsewhere. Others have said that if they do not get more hours, they will have to go on welfare.

In ruling for the workers, Judge Urbina wrote, "The Coalition's black employees were treated differently from the white employees, and...this disparate treatment stemmed from the black employees' filing of the lawsuit."

Robertson's political organization has been plagued with difficulties in recent years. Donations are down, membership has plummeted and the number of active chapters has fallen sharply. In addition, the group has had lengthy wrangles with the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.