The Chelan County Sheriff's Office and the county face a federal lawsuit from a former deputy.

Alan Shephard claims he was the victim of religious based discrimination, harassment, retaliation and a hostile work environment, which led to his resignation last year after nine years as a deputy.

The lawsuit says members of the sheriff's office, including former Sheriff Brian Burnett, targeted him for bullying after he divorced his wife and left Grace City Church.

It says he was denied promotions several times and abused by leaders in his SWAT team and Sheriff's Office employees who were members of Grace City Church.

Lawyers for Shephard and his current wife filed the lawsuit this week at the federal court in Spokane.

Shephard was hired as a deputy in 2013.

The lawsuit says he joined the church in 2015 after feeling pressured to go along for professional advancement.

The suit claims high ranking members of the sheriff's office, including Burnett, promoted a 12-week marriage counseling program that Grace City Church aimed to be geared toward law enforcement officers, as a way to deal with unique marital issues law enforcement officers face.

The court filing describes how Shephard became disenchanted with the church, while his wife was heavily involved in its activities.

It says he continued going to through the marriage counseling program until the level of proselytizing in Grace City Church and the sheriff's office became overbearing and uncomfortable to deputy Shephard's own personal and religious convictions to bear.

The lawsuit refers to Grace City Church as an "alt right" militant church, and an offshoot of the now "defunct and notorious” Mars Hill Church in Seattle. It claims both churches are well known for imposing their will over members who do not follow their 'men are superior' beliefs.

The suit claims the Chelan County Sheriff's Office held a regional law enforcement training event over a weekend in March of 2021, which featured Grace City Church Pastor Josh McPherson giving a pep talk that included antigovernmental propaganda and prayer for 50 attendees.

Grace City Church is known as an evangelical church in Sunnyslope with a large, loyal following.

Current Sheriff Mike Morrison was a member of the church in the time frame covered in Deputy Shephard's lawsuit. Morrison has since left the church.

Shephard's lawsuit filed Monday asks for a jury trial. He's seeking judgement for lost wages and compensation, as well as punitive damages to be determined by the court.

He's also seeking non-economic damages for employment practices that caused him pain and suffering.

Chelan County is listed on the lawsuit as a defendant, along with the county sheriff's office. County spokesperson Jill FitzSimmons said the county does not comment on ongoing litigation.

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