Christians Sue for right to Discriminate
Posted: 10 April 2006 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Does the first amendment give people the right to express themselves freely when that expression constitutes discrimination? Should gays or any other group have to endure the discriminatory free speech of intolerant people?  :?
Elizabeth K.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-christians10apr10,0,6204444.story?coll=la-home-headlines
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."

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Posted: 10 April 2006 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Christians Sue for right to Discriminate

Does the first amendment give people the right to express themselves freely when that expression constitutes discrimination? Should gays or any other group have to endure the discriminatory free speech of intolerant people?  :?
Elizabeth K.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-christians10apr10,0,6204444.story?coll=la-home-headlines
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.”

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Posted: 10 April 2006 09:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think the anti-gay speech ought to be allowed, just as anti-American speech or any speech for that matter ought to be tolerated to an extent.  The First Amendment isn’t there to for the uncontroversial viewpoints and accepted beliefs - it’s there to protect the most vulgar, unacceptable, and offensive arguments that you can barely stand to listen to.  One day, it might be you who has the controversial view that others think is harmful.  (Assuming that many of us are atheists, this has probably already been the case)  We ought to be fighting for Christians’ rights to express anti-gay views, because we are protecting our own right to hold unorthodox opinions, and allowing them to showcase their ignorance at the same time.  The assumption I’m making is that if all ideas, horrible and wonderful, are thrown into play then the best will rise and the worst will be dismissed.  Labeling some as too offensive or illegal only increases their appeal.

At the same time, I agree with the stance that the speech must not enter into the realm of violence or harrassment, of course, which can be a fine line.  I should be able to “put down” religion if I want, but I should not be able to interfere with their ability to express their beliefs or practice them.

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Posted: 11 April 2006 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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boundaries of free speech

Aha! The ACLU defending the free speech of the Nazis.  I guess I wonder how many people listen to the Nazis and believe them, vs how many listen to them and think they are angry and barking up the wrong tree.
There are soooo many bible thumpers who orate convincingly that hatred of people who violate biblical standards constitutes virtue—just like that Rev. Schuller was on the National Geographic documentary about the gospel of Judas, snickering and saying who needs more than the four gospels—completely missing the point that there were originally many gospels—maybe this is the wrong example.

Some people don’t recognize ignorance when they see it, and it irks me when I think this will lead to discrimination against people who didn’t do anything wrong. :(

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Posted: 11 April 2006 06:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Silence Implies Agreement

[quote author=“dougsmith”] I am inclined to come down on the side of the ACLU here ... Free speech is a necessary preliminary to free inquiry.

I was thinking about this for an hour or so after posting my reply. Of course the ACLU’s position is the right one. The first amendment applies to everyone, not just the groups we like.

One obvious problem is that the religious right, a group who would discriminate against gays, for example, uses its one book, that they consider the word of their supernatural being who answers prayers and runs things, as the authority that validates that discrimination. They discount any other evidence that there is a range of normal human sexual identities.

Here is my solution to this problem:

Silence implies agreement. I will not stand by and silently listen to someone make disparaging racial or ethnic comments; the same should apply toward sexual identity. I will not stand by silently and let someone’s disparaging comments about a person’s sexual orientation, which I see as a normal variation, go unchallenged. I can speak up and say out loud that I disagree. Take THAT, you homophobic christians!  :x

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Posted: 11 April 2006 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Re: Silence Implies Agreement

[quote author=“Elizabeth K”]Here is my solution to this problem:

Silence implies agreement. I will not stand by and silently listen to someone make disparaging racial or ethnic comments; the same should apply toward sexual identity. I will not stand by silently and let someone’s disparaging comments about a person’s sexual orientation, which I see as a normal variation, go unchallenged. I can speak up and say out loud that I disagree. Take THAT, you homophobic christians!  :x

Good solution!

:D

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Posted: 12 April 2006 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Obviously, if a school or the government can enforce a code NOT to disparage gays, a school or the government likewise has the right to enforce a code TO disparage gays.

This is not what we want.  We do NOT want the government to enforce certain opinions.

Additionally, it is a good thing to have certain “Christians” associated with bigotry - certainly discredits them.

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Posted: 18 April 2006 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I believe it is their right to harass the gays, but if they do they deserve what can happen to them.

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Fighting the evil belief that there is a god(s).

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Posted: 21 June 2006 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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ACLU

I just read in the Times that the ACLU is considering passing a resolution to limit board members from speaking negatively about policies and decisions of the organization.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/24/us/24aclu.html?ex=1306123200&en=cd9a5fd9f6948a5d&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

It is weird that they occasionally come in conflict on college campuses with a group called FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Yet each organization’s mission seems to be in line with the other.

One case, if memory serves, involved a Christian group at Tufts who barred a lesbian group member from an officer position. The ACLU attacked the organization, since all students participate in paying an activity fee and whatnot, but FIRE defended its rights to have a group in accordance with its Christian beliefs. They gave the example of a Gay Club disallowing a conservative Christian from an officer role. Academic freedom is an interest of mine, but I wasn’t sure which side to take in this one. It’s complicated, to be sure.

Debbie

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Posted: 27 July 2006 03:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“theatheistheretic”]I believe it is their right to harass the gays, but if they do they deserve what can happen to them.

My position precisely. They can have the right to speak out against gays, but I reserve the right to call them intolerant bigoted assholes. But knowing them, then they’ll whine about not respecting their beliefs.

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Religious war at its most basic level is a disagreement over who has the best imaginary friend.

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