Consider the following two cases:
• Crystal Smith, VP for Human Resources at a small historically black state college in the deep South, was fired for her published letter in the local newspaper praising affirmative action and condemning Ward Connerly as a bigoted Uncle Tom because of his opposition to race preferences. In dismissing her lawsuit claiming her dismissal violated her First Amendment rights, the judge accepted the college’s argument that Ms. Smith’s outspoken defense of racial preferences violated the schools equal opportunity policy. Her public opposition to color-blindness, the judge agreed, would make it difficult for the college to attract white students and faculty, who would feel unwelcome.
• Crystal Jones, VP for Human Resources at a historically and still predominantly white state college in the same state, was fired after a local newspaper ran her letter on Martin Luther King Day praising the color-blind ideal expressed in King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and enshrined in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In dismissing her First Amendment-based lawsuit, the judge agreed with the college that her insubordinate public opposition to race preferences conflicted with the school’s affirmative action policy and would make it harder to attract black students and faculty who regard color blindness as racist and hence would not feel welcome.
As you may have guessed by now, these two cases are not real. I made them up. But are they significantly different from the all too real case of Crystal Dixon, former Associate Vice President for Human Resources at the University of Toledo, who was fired for writing a letter to the local paper criticizing the paper’s equation of gay rights with civil rights? (If you suspect I’m also making up this Crystal’s case up, check recent articles about it here and here.)
Unlike my imaginary Crystals, the real Crystal’s letter reflected her personal Christian faith, not policy preferences. Declaring her intention to “respectfully submit a different perspective,” she writes:
First, human beings, regardless of their choices in life, are of ultimate value to God and should be viewed the same by others. At the same time, one’s personal choices lead to outcomes either positive or negative.
As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are “civil rights victims.” Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle….
“Plaintiff stated that she did not think homosexuals were civil rights victims,” [Judge Katz] wrote. “Not only does this statement directly contradict the university’s policies granting homosexuals civil rights protections … ,” but… her statements could be viewed as insubordination. Further, Katz noted that the university was reasonable in assuming that Dixon’s statements could cause damage to the institution, by undermining the recruitment of gay employees, or by making current gay employees feel that their rights were not respected.
The Thomas More Law Center, which represented Dixon, criticized Toledo’s “despicable double standard,” pointing to the fact that the University’s vice provost had publicly attacked conservative Christians who opposed domestic partnership laws as “bigots” without being fired for making them feel unwelcome. As evidence of a double standard the Center also noted a “Celebrate Diversity” speech by the UT president that urged his audience to speak out.
“If you have something to say, speak out and speak up. Speak up and never let it be said that people can’t hear you. You are important to this university. You are important to me, I care about you.” Apparently, he did not mean Christians who oppose the homosexual agenda.
Public institutions can clearly require administrators to enforce their anti-discrimination and personnel policies. Whether they should be able to fire administrators like Crystal Dixon, who had received uniformly excellent job evaluations and had been recently promoted, for expressing “un-diverse” (the new version of un-American) views in public — and even if they do have the legal right, whether they should exercise it — is another matter entirely.
John S. Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.