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article imageOp-Ed: Spin Cycle Christian Values or Hate Speech?

By John Rickman     Jul 3, 2007 in Politics
The 9th Circuit Court has the Conservative Spin machine in overdrive. The court, by a unanimous decision, ruled that a flyer announcing that “Marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family values,” constituted hate speech.
The whole thing started when a gay employee and sent an e-mail to other employees announcing a Gay Pride event. This apparently offended a small group of African/American Christian women who promptly formed a new group calling itself the “Good News Employee Association” (GNEA), which they announced with a flier describing their group as "a forum for people of Faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of the day. With respect for the Natural Family, Marriage and Family Values." They were told to take the poster down because it was offensive and political. They then filed suit against the city of Oakland claiming an infringement of their right of free speech.
The matter worked its way through the courts until it reached the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals where all four of the judges assigned to hear the case decided against the plaintive. Conservative pundits went ballistic. A flood of editorials appeared in the press and Conservative internet sites made frantic claims bias with headlines such as:
“Cultural combat turns free speech to hate crime”
“Liberals vs. Free Speech”
“In Oakland, some free speech is proving very costly”
“California, a symbol for liberalism's injustice”
“Marriage/Family Values Ruled Hate Speech”
Right wing spin doctor George Will took up the cudgels with an article entitled “Self-appointed Speech Police Strike in Oakland,” in which he shrilled:
…it was predictable that speech suppression would become an instrument of cultural combat, used to settle ideological scores and advance political agendas by silencing adversaries.
He then went on to claim:
Effectively, the city has proscribed any speech that even one person might say questioned the gay rights agenda and therefore created what that person felt was a "hostile environment."
Finally Wills claimed:
The flier supposedly violated the city regulation prohibiting "discrimination and/or harassment based on sexual orientation." The only cited disruption was one lesbian's complaint that the flier made her feel "targeted" and "excluded." So anyone has the power to be a censor just by saying someone's speech has hurt his or her feelings.
Although I am a supporter of Gay rights I am also a strong supporter of free speech and was preparing to write an OP-Ed denouncing the decision when I came across the other side of the story. As it turns out Wills and the Right Wing pundits are simply lying. The City of Oakland did not refuse the ladies the right to put their poster on the office bulletin boards. The ladies were told that they could do what the other employee had done, put up a non-partisan notice of an even, but that first they would have to remove the offensive and political speech from it.
What the poster actually read was that the ladies were conducting "a forum for people of faith to express their views ... with respect for the Natural Family, Marriage and Family Values" a clear political statement to the effect that any other arraignment was “unnatural” and lacking in “family values.” As if that were not offensive enough the poster’s title was "Preserve Our Workplace Integrity.” They clearly stated that having Gays in the office hurt office “integrity.” One wonders how the black ladies would have felt if the KKK had put up a poster claiming that having blacks in an office was “unnatural” and hurt office “integrity?”
As for Wills claim that only one “lesbian” was offended, as though lesbians are subhuman and therefore unworthy of protection, he of course lied again. What actually happened is than many Gay people complained but one woman in particular, who worked with the self-appointed guardians of office integrity, was continually and directly harassed by these women. They did not simply put the posters on the bulletin board like everyone else they pinned copies of their poster to her cubicle, left them on her desk and posted them all over the women’s restroom.
To add injury to insult these “ladies” took it upon themselves to come into the woman’s cubical and start “witnessing” their religion to her ON COMPANY TIME when they were suppose to be attending to their duties and allowing her to attend to hers. This despite the fact that she repeatedly asked them to stop harassing her and lodged complaints with their supervisor.
The women were told stop that sort of behavior and then THEY SUED and not the other way around as Right Wing pundits would like us to believe. When the case reached the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the so called “liberal” four judge panel contained THREE Conservatives including two appointed by President Bush himself. Again the right wing spin doctors were simply lying. Bush appointee Judge Richard Clifton, after hearing the case said that the intent of the poster was offensive and political, both violations of work place rules:
"It's hard to avoid the inference, 'We lack ethics, we lack integrity because these people are here.' "
In the court’s written opinion, unanimously adopted by the three Conservative and one Liberal judges it was decided that the city had:
"significant interests in restricting discriminatory speech about homosexuals ... (and has) a duty under state law to prevent workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
In addition, the court also found that the city had
"a more substantial interest in maintaining the efficient operation of their office than the appellants had in their speech."
The bottom line was that these women were using business hours, when they were paid to work and not proselytize, to promote their religion--on the tax payer's dime.
This case was taken up by talk radio, 91% of which is ultra-Right and portrayed as a case of Liberals stifling the Conservatives' right of Free Speech. This was a lie and the Conservative Court agreed.
And now you know the rest of the story.
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