WASHINGTON — The former opinion editor of The Washington Times sued the paper Tuesday over his claims that executives there pressured him to attend a Unification Church event and harassed him when he refused to sign a fraudulent document to help a manager.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington seeks unspecified damages and alleges breach of contract, emotional distress and damage to his reputation. It also names the Unification Church and its leader, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, as defendants. Moon founded the Times in 1982.
Last month, Miniter filed a religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission containing the allegation about pressure to attend the church event. The paper has denied the discrimination claim, but a spokesman had no immediate comment Tuesday.
Miniter's lawyer, Larry Klayman, is asking the judge to block the Times' owners from transferring assets while the case is pending. He said they might do so in an attempt to avoid paying damages.
Miniter claims that while he was vying for a permanent position at the Times, he was invited to New York City, where he and members of the Times staff attended the church event. Moon presided over the event, which included a mass wedding.
According to the lawsuit, then-publisher Thomas P. McDevitt told Miniter it would be good for him to go on the New York trip.
"Miniter took this to mean that if he didn't go, it would count negatively against his prospects at The Washington Times and of being offered permanent executive employment there," the lawsuit says.
Miniter said he attended the January 2009 event and felt uncomfortable there. The next month, he was hired as editorial page editor.
The lawsuit also described a series of events involving Sonya Jenkins, the vice president of human resources. Miniter claims she pressured him to sign a form falsely claiming that her son lived at his house. Miniter, who says he never met Jenkins' son, said Jenkins needed the document so that her son could continue going to school in Arlington, Va., even though the family had moved to Maryland.
According to the lawsuit, when Miniter consistently refused, Jenkins began investigating him in retaliation. Eventually, he was told to work from home and ultimately fired.
The Washington Times, considered a conservative alternative to the much larger Washington Post, has faced declining circulation and a recent management shake-up, including the resignation of the paper's executive editor. Last week, the paper announced plans for significant staff cuts.