Tuesday, June 12, 2007, 4:06 PM
Let’s put this in chronological order, shall we?
The dispute began in January 2003, when the two Oakland employees created a subgroup at their workplace called the “Good News Employee Association.” It was partly in response to a group of homosexual employees having formed their own group 10 months before and being given access to the city e-mail system. One e-mail, dated Oct. 11, 2002, invited city employees to participate in “National Coming-Out Day.”
When several employees asked whether such a posting was legitimate city business, they got an e-mail from City Council member Danny Wan, reminding them that a “celebration of the gay/lesbian culture and movement” was part of the city’s role to “celebrate diversity.”
“Preserve Our Workplace With Integrity: Good News Employee Association is a forum for people of faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of the day.” It said it opposed “all views which seek to redefine the natural family and marriage,” which it defined as “a union of a man and a woman, according to California state law.”
A lesbian co-worker, Judith Jennings, spotted the flier and complained to the city attorney’s office that it made her feel “targeted” and “excluded,” according to a deposition.
A U.S. District Court for Northern California ruling said the words “natural family” and “marriage” had “anti-homosexual import.”…However, [the founder of the Christian group] was told she could announce the group’s presence on the city’s e-mail system if she removed “verbiage that could be offensive to gay people.”
A city exec said, “fliers were placed in public view which contained statements of a homophobic nature” and more or less threatened the jobs of the Christians.
The Christians sued the city, saying they were being denied their first amendment rights.
The district court disagreed, saying the women had other venues in which to proclaim their message. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said employees’ freedom of speech takes a back seat to employers’ “legitimate administrative interests.” They were allowed to submit a new flier, subject to “certain editorial constraints.”
It’s in the Supreme Court’s hands, now, and who knows how they’ll respond?
I have a simple question: what are people doing creating political or religious groups or sexual-orientation celebration days at work?
Isn’t “work” supposed to be about “doing your work,” even if you work for a local/state/federal government?
Maybe local/state/federal governments would function more efficiently if the executives and deputies in charge would simply put employees on notice that work is not about social and political agenda-building…it’s about moving around the volumes of paper that government entities produce and hopefully serving the public?
I can understand the Christians being annoyed at the whole “let’s celebrate our gay workers” idea, since it’s entirely unlikely that anyone would say, “now let’s celebrate our “faith-based” workers!”
But on the other hand… I can also understand the lesbian woman’s feelings, as well. I mean, imagine being a Christian person and reading a notice that said there was starting “a forum for gay people to express their views on the contemporary issues of the day.” And it said it opposed “all views which seek to define the natural family and marriage as one man and one woman.”
I’m thinking they’d feel “targeted” and “excluded” just as the lesbian said she felt.
But still…this crap doesn’t belong in the workplace! Inclusive, exclusionary groups do not belong in the workplace or on workplace bulletin boards! “Hurt feelings” should not be something employers have to deal with. Disband the cliques and groups and you stop all of this idiocy. Why do gov’t employees have to identify themselves by sub-groups and then go seeking affirmation or – if affirmation is denied – the fallback victim status? Why can’t they leave being gay or Christian at home, for crying out loud?
As understandable as the Christian’s exasperation with the whole “its’ not enough to tolerate and respect me as a person, you must celebrate me” trend is, I cannot like their response to it. You don’t want gayness shoved down your throat, that’s fine, but why respond by shoving Christianity down their throats or, more correctly, by establishing a “limited-edition” group that defines itself as much by whom it excludes as by whom it is seeking to attract? If you’re starting a “club” or a “community” of any sort and part of your manifesto is to oppose others that’s a little like starting a “He-Man Woman-Haters Club.” That might have worked for Spanky and Alfalfa, and it might even have been cute…because they were children. Eventually those children figured out that excluding/hating didn’t quite get them where they wanted to go.
I’m not the swiftest swing on the porch, but I’d think of “integrity in the workplace” as doing one’s work, helping others, not gossiping, not slouching off and allowing others to do your work, etc. Forming a group that goes out of its way to identify whom it will oppose seems like you’re looking for a fight, to me.
I have no problem with civil unions (my line gets drawn whenever someone implies that a church must go against its own theology and sacramental understanding of marriage) so I can understand where Don Surber is coming from in his post, and I agree with him about the “zero-tolerance strain” of liberalism that too often shuts down an exchange of ideas – but didn’t the “faith based” group essentially show a similar tendency toward exclusion of non-conforming thought?
And yes, since the Christians made their counter-move and it was slapped down, I do see why this thing has to travel through the court system.
But I still don’t get how you can invite people of faith to “express their views of the day” and immediately note which views will be opposed. What if you have a faithful gay person at work who would love to discuss the “issues of the day” in relation to his/her faith (please resist telling me there are no “faithful gays,” because I know and love some of ‘em and know how deeply they struggle, particularly those who try to live in the chastity to which all unmarried people are called.) As Christians, wouldn’t we be called to – if starting a fellowship of any sort – open the membership to any who wished to participate, hoping that the Holy Spirit will move among the assembly and impart wisdom to all? If your foundation is built on a rock, it can withstand a gay “person of faith’s” expression of his/her views, even if they run contrary to scripture. In such a way does understanding come; in such ways are goodwill and brotherhood built.
If you did want to form some sort of “faith based” group, why be so insular – how does that “let your light so shine before men?” Wouldn’t it be a better thing – if you’re going to form some sort of faith-based fellowship group to invite all workers, not just those of a particular mindset and opinion?
You know, Jesus can handle all comers!
One would expect the Christians to do better than this. When Christ was born the angels proclaimed, “peace on earth to men of goodwill.” Goodwill is a key to peace. And it seems sadly lacking in America, lately, on all sides – yes even “my” side.
“This incredible and devastating ruling has had the practical effect of silencing hundreds, if not thousands, of City of Oakland employees who simply wish to talk about marriage and family values,” said a statement from the Pro-Family Law Center in Temecula, Calif., which represents the plaintiffs.
Oh, come on! Americans have a million ways in which they can establish identities through “groups” and “communities” and so forth. They have eleventy billion ways of “celebrating” themselves. They have a gazillion ways and venues to express their views. Do they really need to do it as “City of Oakland Employees,” too? Is it really a problem if they cannot do all of this as City Employees?
The bottom line – and I really hope someone of some import will say it – this stuff ultimately does not belong at work, or on the bulletin boards of public employers. Not the gay stuff, not the Christian stuff, not the whole “what is marriage” hot potato.
Everyone needs to wipe their little eyes, leave their agendas at home, stop “celebrating” themselves and get back to work.
Related: Gay Marriage and its effects