A federal court has granted summary judgment for the Colorado Department of Transportation in a lawsuit in which a fundamentalist Christian employee claimed harassment and discrimination based on nothing more than the fact that the agency accommodated the religious beliefs of Muslim employees. You can read the full ruling here.
The suit was really quite ridiculous. David Ross works for the Colorado DOT as an administrative assistant in the Staff Bridge Unit. As such, he organizes and coordinates department meetings, training sessions and the like. In 2010, he was part of a meeting that was planning an employee appreciation luncheon when someone noted that the proposed date was during Ramadan, which would prevent a Muslim employee from being able to attend. An alternative date was proposed, Ross’ boss approved it and the date was set.
And then Ross apparently threw quite a tantrum over it. It was his job to send out a notice to all department employees telling them when the luncheon would take place, but he refused to do that because the date was set to accommodate the Muslim holiday. His boss told him to send out the email, but Ross decided to single out the department’s one Muslim employee, telling everyone in the email, ““This event is being rescheduled to Monday, September 13, at the request of Ali, so he may participate.”
Ross then refused to attend the luncheon because it was “contrary to his religious beliefs.” The boss even accommodated that childish reaction, relieving him of his duties to coordinate and organize the event, but he wasn’t happy that Ross had decided to single out the employee and told him to send out another email indicating that the decision to change the date was made by the boss, Mike Leonard. The luncheon then went on, with Ross refusing to attend.
A few weeks later, another employee (who may be Muslim — the ruling isn’t clear, though this isn’t particularly important) sent an email to Ross asking him to forward an invitation to all department employees inviting them to gather in the break room for bagels and cream cheese “[o]n behalf of our fellow employees who are celebrating the
end of the Month of fasting (Ramadan).” Ross refused to do so, but Leonard had another employee send out the invitation.
The next week, Ross told Leonard that he thought the rescheduling of the luncheon was “seriously inappropriate” and that it violated the First Amendment by “establishing that Ramadan was the top religion in Staff Bridge” (Ramadan is not a religion, you dolt; Islam is the religion, Ramadan is one particular tradition within Islam). And he said that the invitation to the bagels and cream cheese informal meeting was “proselytizing” and “promoting Islam in the workplace.”
When a similar invitation went out the next year — not from the department officially, but just by a few employees inviting fellow employees to come to a conference room on their break to share some food — Ross again went ballistic, sending an email to Leonard’s boss asking:
Why is CDOT allowing these obviously deceptive workplace manipulations, in order to indoctrinate non-Muslims into the religious customs of Islam, during scheduled working hours, and tying up CDOT resources with false pretenses?
For crying out loud, as an atheist I would have no problem going to the break room and sharing a bagel and cream cheese with Muslim colleagues as they celebrate the end to the Ramadan period of fasting. Just like I would have no problem attending a company Christmas party. This is taking childish pettiness to a ridiculous extreme. But for Ross, the failure of his bosses to do his bidding and hold those evil Muslims down established a hostile work environment and constituted harassment and intimidation. Bryan Fischer would be proud of this; the only one creating a hostile work environment was Ross.
The court rejected those claims and granted summary judgment for the CDOT.
Moreover, and despite plaintiff’s characterization, there is no reasonable interpretation by which any of the actions of which he complains could be construed as “proselytizing,” that is, as efforts “to convert or attempt to convert . . .; [or] recruit” others to Islam.
Plaintiff did not attend either of the bagel breakfasts, and there is no other evidence suggesting that those events involved any form of proselytization. Nothing other than plaintiff’s own ipse dixit supports his otherwise unsubstantiated belief that the mere fact of inviting others to share food around the end of Ramadan constitutes an
attempt to “indoctrinate non-Muslims into the religious customs of Islam.”
I’m sure Ross now thinks the federal courts are in on the terrible persecution he is suffering. In reality, though, he’s just being a dick.
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