Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, Apr 11, 2006.

  1. Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies

    Many codes intended to protect gays from harassment are illegal, conservatives argue.

    By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer
    April 10, 2006

    ATLANTA — Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

    Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

    Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.

    With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.

    The Rev. Rick Scarborough, a leading evangelical, frames the movement as the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. "Christians," he said, "are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian."

    In that spirit, the Christian Legal Society, an association of judges and lawyers, has formed a national group to challenge tolerance policies in federal court. Several nonprofit law firms — backed by major ministries such as Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ — already take on such cases for free.

    The legal argument is straightforward: Policies intended to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination end up discriminating against conservative Christians. Evangelicals have been suspended for wearing anti-gay T-shirts to high school, fired for denouncing Gay Pride Month at work, reprimanded for refusing to attend diversity training. When they protest tolerance codes, they're labeled intolerant.

    A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that 64% of American adults — including 80% of evangelical Christians — agreed with the statement "Religion is under attack in this country."

    "The message is, you're free to worship as you like, but don't you dare talk about it outside the four walls of your church," said Stephen Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Assn. Center for Law and Policy, which represents Christians who feel harassed.

    Critics dismiss such talk as a right-wing fundraising ploy. "They're trying to develop a persecution complex," said Jeremy Gunn, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

    Others fear the banner of religious liberty could be used to justify all manner of harassment.

    "What if a person felt their religious view was that African Americans shouldn't mingle with Caucasians, or that women shouldn't work?" asked Jon Davidson, legal director of the gay rights group Lambda Legal.

    Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different — a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.

    By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. He predicts the government will one day revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that preach homosexuality is sinful or that refuse to hire gays and lesbians.

    "Think how marginalized racists are," said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom. "If we don't address this now, it will only get worse."

    Christians are fighting back in a case involving Every Nation Campus Ministries at California State University. Student members of the ministry on the Long Beach and San Diego campuses say their mission is to model a virtuous lifestyle for their peers. They will not accept as members gays, lesbians or anyone who considers homosexuality "a natural part of God's created order."

    Legal analysts agree that the ministry, as a private organization, has every right to exclude gays; the Supreme Court affirmed that principle in a case involving the Boy Scouts in 2000. At issue is whether the university must grant official recognition to a student group that discriminates.

    The students say denying them recognition — and its attendant benefits, such as funding — violates their free-speech rights and discriminates against their conservative theology. Christian groups at public colleges in other states have sued using similar arguments. Several of those lawsuits were settled out of court, with the groups prevailing.

    In California, however, the university may have a strong defense in court. The California Supreme Court recently ruled that the city of Berkeley was justified in denying subsidies to the Boy Scouts because of that group's exclusionary policies. Eddie L. Washington, the lawyer representing Cal State, argues the same standard should apply to the university.

    "We're certainly not going to fund discrimination," Washington said.

    As they step up their legal campaign, conservative Christians face uncertain prospects. The 1st Amendment guarantees Americans "free exercise" of religion. In practice, though, the ground rules shift depending on the situation.

    In a 2004 case, for instance, an AT&T Broadband employee won the right to express his religious convictions by refusing to sign a pledge to "respect and value the differences among us." As long as the employee wasn't harassing co-workers, the company had to make accommodations for his faith, a federal judge in Colorado ruled.

    That same year, however, a federal judge in Idaho ruled that Hewlett-Packard Co. was justified in firing an employee who posted Bible verses condemning homosexuality on his cubicle. The verses, clearly visible from the hall, harassed gay employees and made it difficult for the company to meet its goal of attracting a diverse workforce, the judge ruled.

    In the public schools, an Ohio middle school student last year won the right to wear a T-shirt that proclaimed: "Homosexuality is a sin! Islam is a lie! Abortion is murder!" But a teen-ager in Kentucky lost in federal court when he tried to exempt himself from a school program on gay tolerance on the grounds that it violated his religious beliefs.

    In their lawsuit against Georgia Tech, Malhotra and her co-plaintiff, a devout Jewish student named Orit Sklar, request unspecified damages. But they say their main goal is to force the university to be more tolerant of religious viewpoints. The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit law firm that focuses on religious liberty cases.

    Malhotra said she had been reprimanded by college deans several times in the last few years for expressing conservative religious and political views. When she protested a campus production of "The Vagina Monologues" with a display condemning feminism, the administration asked her to paint over part of it.

    She caused another stir with a letter to the gay activists who organized an event known as Coming Out Week in the fall of 2004. Malhotra sent the letter on behalf of the Georgia Tech College Republicans, which she chairs; she said several members of the executive board helped write it.

    The letter referred to the campus gay rights group Pride Alliance as a "sex club … that can't even manage to be tasteful." It went on to say that it was "ludicrous" for Georgia Tech to help fund the Pride Alliance.

    The letter berated students who come out publicly as gay, saying they subject others on campus to "a constant barrage of homosexuality."

    "If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda," the letter said.

    The student activist who received the letter, Felix Hu, described it as "rude, unfair, presumptuous" — and disturbing enough that Pride Alliance forwarded it to a college administrator. Soon after, Malhotra said, she was called in to a dean's office. Students can be expelled for intolerant speech, but she said she was only reprimanded.

    Still, she said, the incident has left her afraid to speak freely. She's even reluctant to aggressively advertise the campus lectures she arranges on living by the Bible. "Whenever I've spoken out against a certain lifestyle, the first thing I'm told is 'You're being intolerant, you're being negative, you're creating a hostile campus environment,' " Malhotra said.

    A Georgia Tech spokeswoman would not comment on the lawsuit or on Malhotra's disciplinary record, but she said the university encouraged students to debate freely, "as long as they're not promoting violence or harassing anyone."

    The open question is what constitutes harassment, what's a sincere expression of faith — and what to do when they overlap.

    "There really is confusion out there," said Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, which is affiliated with Vanderbilt University. "Finding common ground sounds good. But the reality is, a lot of people on all sides have a stake in the fight."
  2. wouldnt it be funny if the person who wrote the most books of the bible was gay:

    Some have suggested that that Paul was plagued by homosexual fears. This is not a new idea, and yet until recent years, when homosexuality began to shed some of its negative connotations, it was an idea so repulsive to Christian people that it could not be breathed in official circles. This is not to say that our cultural homophobia has disappeared. It is still lethal and dwells in high places in the life of the Christian church, and it is a subject about which ecclesiastical figures are deeply dishonest, saying one thing publicly and acting another way privately. The prejudice, however, is fading slowly but surely. With the softening of that homophobic stance we might consider the hypothesis that Paul may have been a gay male. We might test that theory by assuming it for a moment as we read Paul. When I did this for the first time, I was startled to see how much of Paul was unlocked and how deeply I could understand the power of the gospel that literally saved Paul's life.
  3. If remotely successfull, this will be the beginning of the majority taking back their rights which have been confiscated in the name of political correctness and defference to the minority.
  4. free speech means exactly that...

    it does not mean only that free speech which is not politically heterodoxical, or speech that makes people feel "icky"

    speech codes are the orwellian restriction that orwell WARNED us about. and we still don't get it

    we are about the last nation in the world that still values free speech. canada, UK, germany, france, etc. have all passed laws outlawing so called "hate speech".

    we haven't EXCEPT on college campuses. in the case where these campuses are publically funded, clearly the 1st amendment applies.

    the paternalism and infantilization/victimization of our college students is also amazing. college students, and the college community do not Big Brother to protect them from ideas. The remedy for BAD ideas is good ideas, not suppression of the right of those with bad ideas to speak them

    some people just don't get what freedom means. it means you have to put up with public discourse you don't like, and that is (lord forbid) insensitive

    for some great case law cites on the fight for free speech on campuses nationwide, i suggest

    and to quote voltaire (im paraphrasing from memory) "i may not agree with what you say, but i defend to the death your right to say it"
  5. So you have no problems then if Muslim groups verbally attack and verbally harass Christians....

  6. No I do not. As long as there is no physical attack that takes place they can say whatever the fuck they want. However, as soon as they take to physical action then all bets are off.

    Addtionally, any group Muslim, Christian, White, Black, Purple, whatever it may be that does promote violence through speech should have a more watchful eye on them than the average citizen who does not profess violence. Especially if said group has a history for violent acts.
  7. So if a group of Muslims stand outside a door and scream and yell at Christian studends at college, every time they go to class that Alah is going to send them to hell, you have no problem with that?

  8. Which is more valuable, the right to free exercise of religion, spelled out in the First Amendment, or the right of colleges to insulate favored groups from any criticism? Consider the fact that all any of these Christian groups were asking was to be left alone. They did nothing to any of the homosexuals. They merely wanted the right to have their own beliefs and to express them publicly. Plus, they had the temerity to expect a state funded institution not to discriminate against them because of their relgious beliefs.

    Once again, we see that the most intolerant people around are those who scream loudest about tolerance. Their concept of tolerance extends only to those ideas they agree with. Disagree with them and you lose not only your right to speak, but your right to attend the university, hold a job, etc.
  9. AAA,

    It is very easy for you to take the position you take as a member of the majority.

    Me thinks were you a member of a minority group, that was the object of hatred, scorn, and often violence, labeled as sinful, etc. that you might have a different point of view.

    I can see no value at all for any religion to be preaching hatred.....and in the case of Christianity, it seems to me to be the antithesis of what Jesus gave his life much stone casting by the religious right wing, in the name of Jesus Christ.

  10. Student expelled from University for being gay

    "But a copy of the student handbook provided by the university confirmed the policy was not spelled out in 2003-04, when Johnson chose to attend. The school did not provide a copy of the policy for the 2004-05 school year. The 2005-06 student handbook says: "Any student who engages in or promotes sexual behavior not consistent with Christian principles (including sex outside marriage and homosexuality) may be suspended or asked to withdraw."

    School officials said that although the 2003-04 policy did not explicitly mention homosexuality, it did say that students must "conduct themselves, on and off the campus, in a manner which is consistent with the objectives of the College and with its standards of conduct."

    After Dreyer's Web post on Thursday, students' blogs showed mixed reactions. Some said they don't like homosexual behavior, but they didn't think the school should expel people just a few weeks before the end of the term. Others wrote that rules must be followed, but they would miss their friend, who was supposed to stage-manage a production of As You Like It last week. Some were furious, cursing at the university. Some were hurt, praying for God to guide them through a complicated time. The expulsion, some wrote, is tearing the campus apart."


    Wow. A Taliban at Yale and now this. Anyone know if Bob Jones University is banning all black people?
    #10     Apr 11, 2006