May 14, 2008
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.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."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.
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
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