Gay Goose, Christian gander?

Crystal Dixon, an associate vice president of human resources at the University of Toledo, has been essentially fired (she refused to accept a demotion with a pay cut) for writing in a newspaper that homosexuality is wrong, and not the equivalent of race:

Dixon was placed on paid administrative leave after a column she wrote that appeared on the newspaper's Web site April 18 created controversy because of her views on homosexuality.

"As a Black woman ... I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are 'civil rights victims.' Here's why," Dixon wrote. "I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a black woman ... Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle ... "

According to a statement from UT spokesman Lawrence J. Burns, the university determined that there was "just cause" to fire Dixon.

"The public position Ms. Dixon took in the Toledo Free Press is in direct contradiction to University policies and procedures, as well as the institutional core values as defined in our strategic plan, and called into question her continued ability to lead a critical function within the administration as personnel actions or decisions taken in her capacity as associate vice president for human resources could be challenged or placed at risk," Burn said in the statement.

What happened strikes me as an example of viewpoint discrimination. I don't agree with Ms. Dixon's assessment of homosexuality, but she has as much right to her view as I do to mine.

Predictably, the case is generating wide debate on the merits, with many social conservatives such as Matt Barber (who emailed me) saying she is right, and others arguing that she has a specially protected religious right to her opinion. It is true that the Bible says certain things about homosexuality, but I don't see how the question of whether sexual orientation is analogous to race constitutes a religious opinion. Nor am I comfortable with the argument that ideas grounded in religion are more constitutionally protected than ideas which are not. (This is not a new issue here.)

The University of Toledo is a public institution, and they're not allowed to engage in viewpoint discrimination.

How far that goes, I don't know. Would a university administrator be allowed to hold racist opinions as long as he didn't discriminate? Ms. Dixon has stated that she does not discriminate against gays:

"I absolutely respect their right to disagree," Dixon told WTVG about people who have spoken out against her statements. "Again: They are citizens. They can voice their opinion. I'm a citizen as well, and I ought to be able to voice my opinion."

"I've practiced human resources for 25+ years," she says when asked about any conflict her moral beliefs would have with her work at UT. "I have provided outstanding service to individuals regardless of of their sexual orientation. I have hired heterosexuals and homosexuals in my 25 years practicing as a human resources person, so I think it speaks for itself."

Moreover, even Michael S. Miller (who wrote the column Dixon disagreed with) has stated that he "strongly disagreed with Dixon's comments, but defends her right to say them."

Of course, having a right to an opinion and a right to state that opinion does not always translate into a right not to be fired for having that opinion.

Should it?

And should an opinion grounded in religion be more worthy of protection than the same opinion not based on religion?

Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't understand why a Christian should have more of a right to criticize gays than an atheist.

MORE: Suppose the situation were reversed, and Ms. Dixon wanted to fire someone who believed in views contrary to her own. Would that make any difference? I don't see why. Yet I suspect some of her supporters would like to have the right to fire those who disagree with them.

If this were a private entity, it would be easy. In Boy Scouts v. Dale, the Supreme Court upheld the right of BSA to bar gays and atheists (and presumably, their supporters).

MORE: More on viewpoint discrimination here and here. It also arises in the cases involving Intelligent Design. But once again, I have a problem that religious objections to evolution are more entitled to constitutional protection than non-religious objections.

There's just something absurd about saying that those who deny that man evolved from Australopithecus can be fired, unless their opinions are based on religion.

posted by Eric on 05.14.08 at 05:01 PM










Comments

"Crystal Dixon, an associate vice president of human resources at the University of Toledo"

At that level: either quit or shut up and get with the program.

dre   ·  May 14, 2008 8:31 PM

What part of her assessment of homosexuality don't you agree with? She just said it was a choice, and that people were choosing to leave it.

Having homosexual feelings is something that one may not be able to control completely, but one's actions can be controlled.

The question of whether someone is homosexual or not is a false choice.

gnm   ·  May 14, 2008 10:32 PM

First of all, I don't think homosexuality is always a choice, although I think it can be. (Furthermore, whether a homosexual inclination is a "choice" is irrelevant to the larger question of whether there's freedom to engage in homosexual acts.) But she didn't just say it was a choice; she said it violates God's divine order. I don't share her opinion.

Eric Scheie   ·  May 14, 2008 11:12 PM

Plus, there's the demonstrably false statements, such as, "Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle." Sure, maybe if you're thinking of the guys who change their minds about it twice a day, but if you want to talk about the actual number of those who complete program to change it, the number is a couple of orders of magnitude smaller.

John S.   ·  May 15, 2008 9:53 AM

Hm... I don't think this argument is grounded in religion. Religion just kinda... Orbits it.

Human resource departments are the first and last thing any employee (or potential employee) sees when they come to work; from the resume to the exit interview and everything in between. These departments have their hands in very private, personal data. They play a part in handling your benefits, healthcare, etc. They are, in fact, typically the arbiters of what constitutes discrimination or harassment within an organization in the first place. With such responsibilities, even the appearance of bias - genuine or not - can be damaging to the fulfillment of their job duties. In this instance, it seems Toledo's interest was maintaining the efficacy of their HR Department.

There may still be "viewpoint discrimination". It may be that open criticism of other groups has gone unsanctioned, but I've no indication that is the case.

Jared   ·  May 15, 2008 12:51 PM

Every member of an HR department must be investigated for the appearance of bias. if any have attended church, synagogue, or mosque, a pride parade (gay, black, white, whatever) this appearance of partisanship cannot be tolerated. We can't have anyone who would attended a pride parade (of whatever group) employed by HR, because HR itself judges what is discrimination. Any public allegiance undermines confidence in administrative justice. No one who claims membership in any group should be allowed in HR.

This should not be limited to HR departments, but should extend to the government at a whole, since we wouldn't want bigoted, biased, partisan bureaucrats and lawmakers favoring one group and punishing another. That sort of law is called Jim Crow, Affirmative Action, set asides, and (fill-in-the-blank) rights.

tehag   ·  May 18, 2008 9:04 AM

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