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Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies

Old 04-10-06, 10:47 AM
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Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo...a-story-footer

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."


This really pissed me off. How can anyone go around saying they demand the right to be intolerant? So, if they win and tolerance laws are tossed out, then I will have no problem (and it shoudl be perfectly legal) for me to wear a t-shirt that says "Christians are ignorant asshats". I do not believe in the "war on Christianity" thing, but actions like this sure could create such a reaction. So, with a bible in my back pocket, can I sue for the right to own slaves?

edited to add: I thought about adding this to the Bible Talk thread but thought it was a large enough issue to warrent its own thread.
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Old 04-10-06, 10:59 AM
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She's right. College campuses should especially be areas where free speech is encouraged, not just tolerated. Having hate speech/intolerant speech laws is wrong because what hate speech is is a judgement call. I can understand if she was in trouble for advocating physical harm to anyone but she isn't.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:00 AM
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I suggest a group buy on those t-shirts

It's not enough that they have complete control of government and their own little pet crusade...they have to defend their "right" to opress?

I wonder whether Jesus would appreciate the irony of intolerance becoming a central tenet of Christianity. I think he'd be pissed.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:00 AM
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Sounds like Tech has changed a lot in 3 years. Tech is a very conservative campus politically. It is probably more libertarian than Republican.

The year after I left, the gay and lesbian alliance decided to host their own Freshman orientation social. Instead of joining with the rest of the class, they want to do their own thign, why? i dont get it.


You don't think this girl should have the freedom of speech to protest the Vagina Monologues if she doesn't agree with them?
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Old 04-10-06, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by chess
It's not enough that they have complete control of government and their own little pet crusade...they have to defend their "right" to opress?
what???
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Old 04-10-06, 11:09 AM
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The letter berated students who come out publicly as gay, saying they subject others on campus to "a constant barrage of homosexuality."
That's what it's really about, right there. They don't want to hear about it. They don't want to see it. They don't want to even know gay people exist. Shove them back in the closet. Ghettoize them.

If this article were about blacks, or Jews, or Hispanics, no one would be supporting them.

They're in for a rude awakening. The current generation of gay youth have grown up never believing homosexuality is something to hide or be ashamed of, and they're not willing to put up with being belittled.

Let them say what they want about homosexuality. And let everyone else denounce their small-minded bigotry. That's the only way to stop it.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by TracerBullet
Let them say what they want about homosexuality. And let everyone else denounce their small-minded bigotry. That's the only way to stop it.
sounds like that is what they want
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Old 04-10-06, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
what???
...just bored with the notion of the "poor opressed Christians". I honestly can't think of a more powerful (or creepily monolithic) lobby.

As for this matter, I am of the opinion that anti-gay t-shirts should stay where they belong. In church.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by chess
As for this matter, I am of the opinion that anti-gay t-shirts should stay where they belong. In church.
so no freedom of speech outside church?
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Old 04-10-06, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Bronkster
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo...a-story-footer

This really pissed me off. How can anyone go around saying they demand the right to be intolerant?
Because people do have the right to be intolerant. What they do not have the right to do is violate other people's rights. People should be able to speak out all they want on whatever stupid thing they want, as long as they are not using another's private property without their permission to do so. Now "harassing," in the form of initiating force or the threat of force against them is off-limits.

In private organizations the rules are clear. In government institutions you will have this perpetual war.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:16 AM
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It's not enough that they have complete control of government and their own little pet crusade...they have to defend their "right" to opress?

I wonder whether Jesus would appreciate the irony of intolerance becoming a central tenet of Christianity. I think he'd be pissed.
To say something is wrong isn't opression. I suspect Jesus would speak out against sin(or what he thought was sin) and not ignore it.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
so no freedom of speech outside church?
From my perspective, it seems that we're talking about maintaining some semblence of harmony in a learning environment...as opposed to an argument about free speech. If I'm running a college (or a business for that matter), I could live without the drama and would ask folks to keep their opinions (especially their narrowminded ones) to themselves...at least on campus.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by chess
From my perspective, it seems that we're talking about maintaining some semblence of harmony in a learning environment...as opposed to an argument about free speech. If I'm running a college (or a business for that matter), I could live without the drama and would ask folks to keep their opinions (especially their narrowminded ones) to themselves...at least on campus.
so if a college reprimanded people for an anti-war rally, you'd support the college?
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Old 04-10-06, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by bhk
To say something is wrong isn't opression. I suspect Jesus would speak out against sin(or what he thought was sin) and not ignore it.
Odd, the only thing I recall Jesus getting worked up about was the church getting too powerful...and rich...and corrupt. Other than that, he seemed like a "live and let live" kind of fella.

At least that's how I read it.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
so if a college reprimanded people for an anti-war rally, you'd support the college?
Sure. As long as it's on campus.

but it's hardly the same thing is it?
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Old 04-10-06, 11:30 AM
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I'm for free speech, which includes stupid speech.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:37 AM
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As long as they would support someone's right to wear a t-shirt that said "Christians are idiots", I have no problem supporting their right to free speech.

(In reality, I fully support their right to free speech, as dumb as I may think it is. However, I'm pretty sure that they'd rally against anyone wearing such a t-shirt as a restriction on their own rights)
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Old 04-10-06, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by chess
Odd, the only thing I recall Jesus getting worked up about was the church getting too powerful...and rich...and corrupt. Other than that, he seemed like a "live and let live" kind of fella.

At least that's how I read it.
actually he told people not to sin
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Old 04-10-06, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Bronkster
Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality.
(buzzer) Wrong!

I don't know all the details, but from what I can tell this isn't necessary.

Just out of curiousity, do you guys/gals get offended by "Straight Pride" shirts? I personally wouldn't wear them but I've seen several...
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Old 04-10-06, 11:54 AM
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"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.


I wonder if Mr. Baylor realizes that it could also be argued that being a Christian is a "lifestyle choice not an inborn trait"?
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Old 04-10-06, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Bronkster
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo...a-story-footer

[Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.
I don't think it has anything to do with her relgious expression. She's perfectly free to worship how she pleases. It is an infringement on her right to free speech, since Georgia Tech is a state school. They should be able to say whatever they damn well please, regardless of its sillyness or stupidity. As long as they are not harassing individuals or inciting violence, they have that right.
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Old 04-10-06, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
actually he told people not to sin
Individually, or did he tell them to police each other? And what's a sin? According to whom? Is a person's identity a sin? And how is that different from their color...or their religion for that matter? Is it a sin to be Catholic, or Jewish, or Muslim? Do they even make a t-shirt for that? Would you allow it in your place of business?
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Old 04-10-06, 12:13 PM
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It's a dicey issue. It's also a good one to discuss here, because it flops the libertarians from the pro-gay side back to the pro-religion side of this essentially two-sided culture war. Then again, the libertarians would fight for the rights of a landlord to keep blacks out--a supposed "right" the religious fighters of this battle would want to disassociate themselves from comepletely. So the religionists are trying hard to seperate gays off from blacks, Jews, etc as "not a real minority" and instead a "lifestyle choice" which they can badmouth publicly as much as they want without any repercussions and without jeopardizing their "faith-based" government preferences.

I think that whatever policies are in place to protect racial and/or ethnic minorities--and let's throw religious minorities into the mix as well--need to be looked at with an eye to including sexual orientation. And where the rights of a religion to badmouth others collides with the rights of those others to live in freedom, safety and equality, then the public speech has got to go.

Last edited by adamblast; 04-10-06 at 12:23 PM.
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Old 04-10-06, 12:14 PM
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These people sound like ignorant asshats, but I can't see any reason they shouldn't be allowed to voice their opinions in public. Why make martyrs out of them? Let them say what they want and just ignore them.

When I was in college, we had a handful of crazy ministers that would come set up on campus a couple days a week. They lived to feel persecuted. They would literally tell everyone walking by that they were going to hell and would fill in the blank as to the reason why. I was told that the fact that I was smoking a cigarette meant that I was actually gay and that I'd burn in hell for it. Every time, they'd keep pushing it until students were screaming at them or throwing things at them and then they'd fall into praying 'Oh Jesus, look what I'm suffering in your name! Oh Jesus, give me strength!' If everyone would have just ignored them, they'd either have shut up or been forced to take things to a level that got them arrested.

Also, I like the point raised in another recent thread that these types of people pick on homosexuality because it's 'safe', in that it's not something they have to struggle with denying themselves. Why pick on something that only 1% to 5% of the population does instead of focusing on a much more prevalant 'sin', such as premarital sex or masturbation? Those are just as wrong according to the Bible, but they don't inspire near the fanaticism from these nuts.
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Old 04-10-06, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by adamblast
It's a dicey issue. It's also a good one to discuss here, because it flops the libertarians from the pro-gay side back to the pro-religion side of this essentially two-sided culture war. Then again, the libertarians would fight for the rights of a landlord to keep blacks out--a supposed "right" the religious fighters of this battle would want to disassociate themselves from comepletely. So the religionists are trying hard to seperate gays off from blacks, Jews, etc as "not a real minority" and instead a "lifestyle choice" which they can badmouth publicly as much as they want without jeopardizing their "faith-based" government preferences.

I think that whatever policies are in place to protect racial and/or ethnic minorities--and let's throw religious minorities into the mix as well--need to be looked at with an eye to including sexual orientation. And where the rights of a religion to badmouth others collides with the rights of those others to live in freedom, safety and equality, then the public speech has got to go.
but dont people have a right to say that blacks should be kept out of _____. they can't enforce it but they can say it, right? or shouldn't they be able to under free speech laws?
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