Arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion,” a legal team has appealed the dismissal of an administrator from the University of Toledo in Ohio for her opinion of homosexuality.
The appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes on behalf of Crystal Dixon, who was fired by the university in 2008 after expressing her “personal, Christian viewpoint on homosexuality” in an op-ed published in a local newspaper.
“In direct contravention,” the appeal states, “defendants seek to prescribe what ‘shall be orthodox’ in matters of opinion by permitting University of Toledo employees to express personal messages that promote certain favored viewpoints on controversial political and social issues, while censoring certain disfavored viewpoints, such as plaintiff’s Christian viewpoint on the issue of homosexuality.”
Spokesman Robert Muise of the AFLC noted that the lower court ruled that the school’s “diversity” interests outweighed Dixon’s First Amendment rights.
“This case is an egregious example of the anti-Christian bias and bigotry that is being promoted in our universities and other public institutions in the name of ‘diversity.’ This one-way diversity, however, is contrary to our constitutional guaranteed freedoms protected by the First Amendment,” he said.
It was in April 2008 when Dixon saw a commentary in the Toledo Free Press that contended those who choose the homosexual lifestyle are like people who suffer discrimination based on their skin color.
Dixon, an African-American and Christian, thought the commentary was incorrect and submitted her own opinion piece to present a Christian viewpoint.
“I respectfully submit a different perspective for Miller [the author of the original op-ed] and Toledo Free Press readers to consider,” she wrote. ” … I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are civil rights victims.” She signed it “Crystal Dixon.”
Just days later, she received a letter from the university president Lloyd Jacobs, who fired her over the “public position you have taken.”
A lawsuit followed, and earlier this year a judge in Ohio affirmed the dismissal, arguing the university’s stated preference for “diversity” trumped Dixon’s constitutional rights.
But the appeal asserts Dixon was censored because of subject matter, because other school officials also have expressed opinions “about various political and social issues” without penalty.
The appeal points out another administrator, Carol Bresnahan, was identified by her university position when she blasted opponents of a domestic-partner registry law as bigoted.
“It’s their religious beliefs, and bigotry in the name of religion is still bigotry,” she said.
Bresnahan, however was not reprimanded by Jacobs for her “bigoted, anti-religious comments,” the appeal said.
According to court documents, Jacobs testified: “If you make a statement contrary to the university’s value system, that’s not fine.”
Dixon, writing as a private individual about her beliefs, said, “As a Black woman … 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.”
According to the court documents, Dixon did not identify herself as a university employee. Jacobs did identify her position, however, in a follow-up letter of his own, stating, “It is necessary … for me to repudiate much of her writing. … We will be taking certain internal actions in this instance to more fully align our utterances and actions with this value system.”
The problem, however, is that legal precedents hold that “it is well settled that ‘a state cannot condition public employment on a basis that infringes the employee’s constitutionally protected interest in freedom of expression,’” the brief said.
“Here, defendants violated plaintiff’s right to freedom of speech by terminating her employment because she authored an opinion piece in a local newspaper in which she expressed her personal opinion and viewpoint on the issue of homosexuality and civil rights from the perspective of a Christian, African-American woman.”
The brief explains the district court blamed Dixon for making “homosexual employees” feel “uncomfortable or disgruntled.”
“The evidence showed, without contradiction, that plaintiff never discriminated against anyone at the university (or elsewhere) nor did she ever say she would.”
The university defended its actions in a previously released statement from Larry Burns, a vice president: “We have asserted from the beginning that Ms. Dixon was in a position of special sensitivity as associate vice president for human resources, and this issue is not about freedom of speech, but about her ability to perform that job given her statements in the Toledo Free Press.”