A U.S. civil rights ruling dealing with anti-gay
verses in the Bible
||"The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals...[called] the Scripture
verses 'demeaning and degrading'." Stuart Shepard, Focus on the
||"The law is that individual employees have the right to be free
of religious discrimination in the workplace. You can't be fired
simply because you put up a Bible verse." Mat Staver, Liberty
Rich Peterson had
worked for Hewlett-Packard in Boise, ID for 21 years. The company
had conducted a
diversity program which had the slogan: "Diversity is Our Strength."
The program was supported by posters in the workplace which showed
gays and lesbians at work. Peterson made some posters of his own.
Bible verses which, in most English translations of the Bible, appear to
condemn all homosexual behavior.
Chris Troupis, said: "In response, he was confronted by a supervisor
who told him he needed to take the Scripture down" Peterson
offered to remove his posters if the company removed theirs. This was
not considered acceptable by the employer. Peterson was
fired in 1998. He initiated a lawsuit for improper dismissal, asking for
one million dollars in damages.
||Troupis commented: "Either
the (court is saying that) Scripture itself is offensive and hurtful and
therefore can be prohibited, or (that it) can, if somebody puts up a
Scripture, figure out what's in their head and...can be the thought
police." [It seems obvious from the Court's comment that the
former is the case: that certain verses in the Bible are demeaning and
degrading if shown in the workplace. These might include passages that
treat women as property, the promotion of
genocide, stoning non-virgin brides
to death, etc.] Troupis claimed that the court unfairly portrayed
Peterson as a religious extremist. He warned that the ruling could
silence freedom of religious expression in the workplace. He said: "While
the words used in the scriptures he quoted might be strong, the method
he chose to express his beliefs was the least intrusive possible." He
didn't talk to anybody, he didn't corner anyone, and nobody complained."
||Mat Staver, of the Fundamentalist Christian group Liberty Counsel, said that the ruling is an outrage. He said. "The
law is that individual employees have the right to be free of religious
discrimination in the workplace. You can't be fired simply because you
put up a Bible verse."
Peterson expects to appeal his case to the
U.S. Supreme Court. As of 2004-JUL-4, the case has not proceeded.
This essay continues below.
Details of the case:
One of the quotations was the verse Leviticus
20:13 from King James Version : "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth
with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to
death. Their blood shall be upon them." Peterson had allegedly
admitted that this quotation was "intended to be hurtful," and that
its purpose was to emotionally hurt gay employees so that they would be
motivated to change their behavior.
On 2004-JAN-6, a three judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
in San Francisco unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that found that the
termination did not violate Peterson's rights. The court
called his portrayal of Scripture verses "demeaning and degrading."
They said that his posters were not protected
as his free exercise of religious expression. They noted that no other
employee or group was allowed to post disparaging material. Judge Stephen
Reinhardt wrote that "Peterson offered no evidence, circumstantial or
otherwise, that would support a reasonable inference that his termination
was the result of disparate treatment on account of religion." The
ruling noted that the employer made no effort to force Peterson to change
his beliefs; they did not object to his anti-gay letter to the editor that
was printed in The Idaho Statesman. They did not deny Peterson a
parking space in the company parking lot because his car bore the bumper
sticker: "Sodomy is Not a Family Values. [sic]" Reinhardt also
wrote that: "Peterson may be correct that the campaign devoted special
attention to combating prejudice against homosexuality, but such an emphasis
is in no manner unlawful. To the contrary, Hewlett-Packard's efforts to
eradicate discrimination against homosexuals in its workplace were entirely
consistent with the goals and objectives of our civil rights statutes
generally." Reinhart said that it would have been an "undue hardship"
for the employer to allow Peterson to retain his posters, or that both the
diversity and anti-gay posters be removed. Either route would have hurt the
company's effort to "attract and retain a qualified, diverse work force,
which the company reasonably views as vital to its commercial success."
Stuart Shepard, "Court Upholds Firing over Bible Verses,"
Family News in Focus, 2004-JAN-8, at:
"US court upholds firing for
anti-gay Bible quotes," Reuters, 2004-JAN-6, at:
"Court upholds firing of HP
employee," Associated Press, 2003-JAN-7, at:
Bob Kick, "Appeals court
upholds firing for posting anti-gay verses," Associated Press,
The text of the U.S. Court of
Appeals decision is online at:
Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2004-JAN-9
Latest update: 2004-JUL-4
Author: B.A. Robinson