Man fired for refusing to approve of homosexuality

Employees of AT&T Broadband were required to sign a certificate stating that “each person at AT&T Broadband is charged with the responsibility to fully recognize, respect and value the differences among all of us,” including “sexual orientation.” A Denver man working for the company said that while he would personally endeavor not to discriminate against or harass anyone, to sign a statement that he respected homosexuality would violate his religious beliefs. He was immediately fired by the company, and now is suing.

So, employment at a major American corporation is now contingent on formal approval of homosexuality. Our society truly seems to be arriving at the situation described in The Book of Revelations, Chapter 13:

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 18, 2004 08:34 AM | Send

The demand for “tolerance” becomes the demand for “acceptance”, which then becomes the demand for “approval”. At this point, someone who is genuinely tolerant is a “bigot” who cannot be toleratd. The First Things article linked from Jim Kalb’s pages has an excellent discussion of what tolerance truly is, and what its limits are:

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 18, 2004 9:12 AM

Aren’t you the least bit conflicted here? Doesn’t AT&T have the right to employ anyone they want, and if it happens to be AT&T’s policy to employ only people who respect others sexual orientation, then perhaps people who cannot live under that policy should seek employment
elsewhere? Isn’t the fact that the discharged employee is now suing galling to the conservatives since they are always decrying “baseless” lawsuits which clog our court systems. Dicuss.

Posted by: matt on February 18, 2004 4:26 PM

The other Matt must have gotten lost and ended up in the wrong place. Libertarianism is down the hall and to the left. But you may be required to get a lobotomy before entering; sorry.

Posted by: Matt on February 18, 2004 4:36 PM

To Matt: What you’re saying is correct, in terms of the liberty bequeathed from Anglo-Saxon traditions. But the govt. asserted the power over the past 40 years to control the criteria in determining whom you will employ and retain. You can no longer discriminate on certain bases.

I think part of the concern here is that this usurped power, first asserted to protect minorities and women, is now being channeled to protect perverts, but no such advantage is being given to those who hold to traditional morality. The latter is exempted from these protections against ‘discrimination’ and can be targeted with impunity.

The Supreme Court has already refused a case where a FL man was fired for expressing his religious views against homosexuality. Something about how it caused offense, or created a hostile workplace…

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on February 18, 2004 4:38 PM

There are two questions raised by matt (lower case), the procedural, relating to a business’s right within a defined sphere to conduct its own affairs free of outside interference, and the substantive, relating to normative traditions of right and wrong. To my knowledge, it has never been a requirement of employment in this country, that an employee must endeavor to change his inner thoughts about a matter of fundamental morality. I don’t even know if there would be a judicial precedent on such a thing. This goes even beyond the external expression of negative opinions about homosexuality, as in the Florida case that Mr. LeFevre mentions. Note again that the plaintiff in this case offered to promise that he would not act in a discriminatory or intolerant way toward others; but that was not enough for AT&T Broadband; they insisted that he promise to “respect” homosexuality. True, a company has its own private sphere where it can do what it likes, but for a company to make such an invasion on the private thoughts and moral judgments of its employees would not lie within any area of business rights that I’ve ever heard of. I doubt very much that it would stand scrutiny before a court, though I don’t know what the exact basis of the decision would be (it would probably be the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of one’s religious beliefs).

This procedurally extreme invasion of a worker’s private thoughts is hugely exercerbated by the substantive evil of the invasion: a requirement that people commit themselves to remove all critical thoughts from their minds regarding homosexuality. It’s amazing that the poster, in the name of liberty, would defend such an extreme intrusion. But in fact that is consistent with the Jeffersonian-Jacksonian ideology that informed the Democratic Party in antebellum America and that is still present in the libertarian ideology of today. The Democrats of that time believed in absolute moral liberty, to the point where people within their private sphere could behave as tyrants. Thus the Democrats defended human slavery on the basis of the “sacred rights of liberty.” To act as though slavery had no publicly significant moral content was obviously a major mistake. At best, slavery could have been defended as a necessary evil, which was the way it was defended at the time of the Founding, not as an absolute moral right, which was the way it was defended by Southern Democrats in the period leading up to the Civil War.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 18, 2004 4:53 PM

Mr. Auster lays out the case well. I wonder if we would defend the right of an employer to hire only those who believe in traditional morality? I would respect the right of employers frankly to hire on whatever criteria they wish. If they want to hire only people 5’ or under, or only left-handed Korean duck-hunters, fine. Practical objections to this are obviated by the fact that most employers are interested in getting quality work done, right and efficiently. This is also an answer to the controls on whom one must sell to — most aren’t in business to indulge prejudices, but to make money.

Businesses are not an agent of the state! So while I believe in equal protection before the law, it is not within the legitimate purview of the state to control whom one must hire, or sell to, or buy from. The govt. has asserted power over all 3, and this has caused incalculable damage to our society, and to businesses who have been forced to hire incompetents to avoid bureaucratic sanctions or lawsuits. People who should be fired often can’t be. We can’t have it both ways here. If govt. has this power, and leftists are in control as they are now, then this power will be used to further a leftist agenda, favoring those who tow the line.

And that’s the problem. Mr. Auster wonders what the basis of a court decision would be in this case. Well, there is probably jurisprudence over the past 1/2 century that could be relied on. The question is, will it be used by leftist judges to help people like you and me? The govt. is always willing to recognize original liberty when it suits them, just as it recognizes Indian sovereignty when it suits them. Govt. power over employment decisions has been effectively usurped, with no constitutional basis; it most likely will NOT be used to protect traditionalists. And if it were, then we’ve effectively conceded a great deal of power to govt. that we would not favor in other matters. We lose one way, and we lose the other.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on February 18, 2004 5:19 PM

Excellent thread here. J. O’Sullivan & others have touched on the general idea of the transnational progressives taking hold of the Human Resources depts. of various major corporations. This milieu is similar in many regards to teachers unions, and, as this example indicates, they are getting bolder at implementing their p.c. agenda with supervision by thought police. My own response is that one must actively boycott such companies. For example, Richard Poe on highlighted the companies that submitted amicus briefs in support of racial preferences at U. Michigan. I make it a point not spend one cent on any of these companies products or services. I’ve told others & have written letters to let these companies know that as long as they lend their support to racial quotas/preferences, they can count me out as a customer. This has an effect but I fear it is short lived. Similarly there has been some protest against CBS & MTV over their libertine & leftist slant - this is at least having a short term effect for the good.

Posted by: Chris M. on February 18, 2004 5:40 PM

Yes to Joel, and a further question is, would matt defend us? We have libertarians like matt who, without challenging the existing massive intrusions of the federal government into employment decisions (since these libertarians seem to care mainly about fighting anti-drug laws), indignantly spring to life to defend an employer who claims the absolute right to discriminate against an employee on the basis of his private thoughts. What this suggests is that most libertarians are really liberals: they accept state intrusion on private business decisions when the intrusion enforces liberal beliefs such as anti-racism; but they oppose state intrusion in private business decisions when the intrusion would protect the right of employees not to approve of homosexuality.

matt’s failure to acknowledge that there is already huge state interference in private business decisions in such areas as racial discrimination, makes his bona fides questionable when he uses libertarian arguments in support of total business freedom in the area of policing employees’ private opinions about sexual morality.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 18, 2004 5:41 PM

Not to defend any corporation that filed an amicus brief in the Michigan affirmative action cases, but we should all realize that such corporations really have no place to go except in between a rock and a hard place.

If affirmative action is illegal, the existing judicial precedents concerning “disparate racial impact” still leave a presumption of guilt upon any company that is underrepresented with a given minority group in its ranks (i.e. less than the percentage of that minority group in the surrounding population.) A legal complaint by a member of a “protected group” who was not hired after an interview, coupled with statistical data indicating underrepresentation of that group, are all it takes to determine the presumptive guilt of that company. At that point, the company must prove its innocence, which is almost impossible.

If “affirmative action” is legal, the company can use it to achieve quotas and avoid underrepresentation, sparing it the losing end of lawsuits.

If quotas are overturned by the courts, they get to choose between getting sued for “reverse discrimination” by whites and getting sued for discriminatory hiring practices by minorities. They cannot win.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 18, 2004 6:02 PM

Mr. Auster brings the point full circle, and shows the hypocrisy involved.

“since these libertarians seem to care mainly about fighting anti-drug laws”

A relevant example here, (supported by many conservatives) is the right of employers to compel employees to urinate in a bottle on demand in order to track off-hours behavior — even where that behavior has no demonstrable effect on their job performance. Yet I wonder if the same libertarians who would pass laws protecting workers against such invasive practices have no problem with employers compelling their workers to reveal their discrete thoughts and opinions and sign off on affirmations repugnant to their own beliefs as condition for continued employment!

I believe drug testing in most cases to be revolting, demeaning, pointless, and stupid; but I would affirm the right of employers to drug test their employees whenever they please.

Mr. Coleman explains the problems we are faced with due to government intrusion in private business decisions and affairs. Discrimination is the very essence of freedom, whether based on religious convictions (the more noble, obviously,) or merely personal preference or taste. The English-speaking world took this truth for granted up until the middle of last century.

The usurpation of power in this matter is leftist-driven, and will only be used to further a leftist agenda.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on February 18, 2004 6:10 PM

But perhaps I’m not facing the core issue that has been implicitly raised by matt. What if we were living in a pre-civil rights era, without federal control over private hiring decisions, private rules of employment and so on? I would suppose that in that society a Christian businessman would have the right to say that he only wanted to hire Church-going Christians—just as a white could choose only to hire whites, and a black could choose only to hire blacks. But would this Christian boss have the right to examine his employees’ private religious thoughts, to see if they were sincerely faithful? I don’t know if there was ever such a case. But let’s say for the sake of argument that there was such a case, and that the employer’s right was not challenged. In such a society, would a business also have the right only to hire people who respected homosexuality? I conclude provisionally that, at least as far as federal law would be concerned, there would be such a right.

Of course, under federal law of that era as properly understood, state and local governments had great latitude to regular private behavior (which the federal government did not have), vastly greater than they have now. So it’s probable that if my fanciful scenario had occurred (i.e. a businessman in pre-civil rights America insisting that his employees respect homosexuality), local or state government, not to mention outraged public opinion, would have prevented him from doing that.

In other words, my hypothetical scenario envisions a society where there would be a proper balance between freedom and government. If private businesses found themselves legally or morally constrained by local government or public custom embodying the moral beliefs of the community, that would be in conformity with freedom as originally understood in this country. In a civilized society there is never such a thing as absolute freedom, but an interplay between freedom and the morés of the community. But in such a situation, the freedom and the forces contraining the freedom are both subject to countervailing forces. In our current form of society, which is simultaneously morally liberationist AND managerial/statist, there is a lack of proper checks both on the sphere of freedom and on the sphere of the state. The original genius of the American system was to provide a structure in which the dynamic equilibrium of those mutually opposed forces could be worked out by a free people under law and under God.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 18, 2004 6:33 PM

Well, let’s look at it practically in the present. Should pro-life groups have the right to hire only those who would affirm their opposition to abortion? Should pro-fetucide groups have the right to hire only those who affirm their support for the privilege of committing fetucide?

Should church-run businesses have the right to hire only those who will affirm said church’s statement of faith? Should the NAACP have the right to fire someone who refuses to sign a form denouncing the candidacy of David Duke?

I think Mr. Auster’s statement invoking public opinion is key to this, and I mean this especially in the sense of local community. The morals and customs of the locale are what would naturally prevail in an organic society, and that’s as it should be. Govt. intrusion, especially of the Federal variety, is what has thrown the whole ship off keel.

I still believe that most of America retains a sense of traditional morality, but what good is that when the Federal govt. steps in, when the Supreme Court can nullify a voter-approved State law against granting privileges for homosexuals (Romer v. Evans, 1996) or nullify all state anti-sodomy laws as they did last year? It means that the traditional norms are overturned, paving the way for what AT&T is now doing.

It’s the criteria I object to, not the right itself. And it’s the unwarranted govt. intrusion I criticize, which has enabled such criteria — since the govt. won’t exercise the power they’ve usurped when such restraint serves the leftist end. Things are way out of whack.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on February 18, 2004 6:50 PM

Continuing Mr. LeFevre’s points, laws and constitutions do not operate by themselves, they are the expression of the common beliefs of a people as expressed through its political process. Customary norms serve as constraints both upon private activity AND on the state. Once you overturn the customary norms of a society, everyone feels he can do as he likes. The private AND the public sphere become equally arrogant and reckless. The federal executive and legislative branches start to intrude into more and more areas of society that they once had nothing to do with, the U.S. Supreme Court begins acting like an ongoing constitutional convention, the mayor of San Francisco starts behaving like a Jacobin revolutionary, businesses start to delve into the private moral beliefs of their employees, and so on and so on.

We have, in short, a combination of anarchy and tyranny. What do anarchy and tyranny have in common? The denial of the principle of limits.

Freedom operating within moral limits is self-government in a man. Freedom operating within constitutional limits is self-government in the state. People in our post-60s era assume that in the pre-civil rights, pre-Incorporation Doctrine, pre-hyper centralization era, there would only be chaos and oppression. But in fact it was the unconstitutional centralization of power, by destroying the natural and customary authority of local communities, that destroyed self-government and made government increasingly arbitrary and tyrannical.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 18, 2004 7:48 PM

To sum up what I’ve been trying to say in these last couple of comments (and I’m sorry if I’ve been ranting a bit):

In our protests against a business which discriminates against its employees based on their private, unexpressed lack of “respect” for homosexuality, the question arose, weren’t we piggybacking on the very anti-discrimination laws that we oppose? And my answer was that we were not piggybacking, because in a pre-civil rights era, there would have been moral and social constraints operating naturally through organic communities to prevent such tyrannical behavior by a business. It was the civil rights movement with its centralization of state power that destroyed those organic constraints. Therefore, when we protest anti-Christian or anti-traditionalist discrimination, we are not being hypocritically dependent on anti-discrimination laws.

However, given the actual existence of such laws, which are always used _against_ people like us, we are perfectly justified in seeking to use them for our own protection as well.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 18, 2004 8:33 PM

I agree generally with Mr. Auster’s approval of recourse to the laws as they exist even if such laws are ill-conceived and have contributed to the problem. Expedience… But it presents an obvious dilemma, similar to the Incorporation Doctrine.

We disagree with that Doctrine because it’s given the Federal Courts the power to impose their perverted views of the Establishment Clause on local communities, (among other reasons). Yet if we are harassed for expressing our political viewpoints by a left-leaning State, it makes sense to appeal to the First Amendment.

Somehow though, this seems to only bolster the very Doctrine that we would do away with — which has contributed to such problems to begin with. Thus there seems to be a vicious cycle in play, which circumstances render us unable to step outside of.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on February 18, 2004 9:19 PM

May I make a point here that the debate over libertarianism misses the larger issue? Even if we accept the premise that the employer has the right to fire someone for not being accepting of homosexuality, all that means is that the government cannot step in to remedy the situation. “Rights” are a matter of law, not of morality.
The bigger issue here is that requiring an employee to do something like this is hideous. There is every reason to be morally outraged by such a reprehensible act, even if we accept that the employer has the right to do so.
The point is, whether we believe legal action is appropriate or not, at the very least we ought to do everything we can to publicize AT&T’s discrimination and to build a movement against it. With all the other phone companies to choose from, at the very least we could arrange a boycott of AT&T. (We can also find out what, if anything, AT&T does other than phone service and boycott that). We ahve every right not to buy from a company that we feel engages in unfair hiring practices.

Posted by: Michael Jose on February 18, 2004 9:33 PM

But I did address Mr. Jose’s point when I spoke of how a community could enforce its customary standards on a misbehaving business.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 18, 2004 9:44 PM

Gentlemen, gentlemen,gentlemen! This is nothing less than double-jeopardy.Are there not laws on the books against discrimination in the work place?

Posted by: Joan Vail on February 18, 2004 10:36 PM

Like Mr. Auster said, this is a question of religious freedom.

The law protects against employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, and religious conviction. There is nothing in there about sexual deviance yet, thank God.

The guy might have a legal case. He should see a lawyer.

Posted by: rogueleader on February 18, 2004 11:19 PM

The landmark 1964 ban on private race, sex, and religious employment discrimination was followed by the 1967 federal age discrimination ban, the 1990 federal disability discrimination ban, and the 1970s (and later) state marital status discrimination bans. Private employers do not have the right to engage in discrimination; there exists a narrow exception for religious organizations. A Christian charity, for example, may choose not to hire homosexuals, but if the charity receives federal funds, it may be compelled to reverse its policy.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, AT&T’s dismissal of an employee after his refusal to sign a document stating that he “respected” homosexuals should be construed as religious discrimination since the employee claimed that his disapproval of homosexuality was based on Christian beliefs. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines on religious discrimination define religion as “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong and which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views …. The fact that no religious group espouses such beliefs, or the fact that the religious group to which the individual professes to belong may not accept such belief will not determine whether the belief is a religious belief ….”

Of course the problem that this case will eventually present is that the employee will be analogized to an unrepentant racist and some appellate court will hold that AT&T cannot be compelled to retain homophobes any more than it could be compelled to hire racists. To make a long story short, this is an example of one of the many paths by which homosexuality will be made a cultural dogma before which all “good” citizens must genuflect.

Posted by: Manny Alvarez on February 19, 2004 12:18 AM

It is not a question of religious freedom. The free exercise of religion means only that the govt. cannot penalize or harass one for their religious beliefs and practices. It means nothing in reference to how the owner of a business in his choice of employees. Businesses are not agents of the state.

Mr. Auster has laid out the case as to how societal forces should be naturally brought to bear in such cases, and would were it not for outside meddling. Now we find ourselves falling back on ‘big govt. conservatism’ to solve the problem, which in the long run will serve only to enlarge the problem, creating and implementing the very mechanisms that leftists will ultimately use against us.

What this shows, in the greater picture, is how the homosexual movement, like so many other equalitarian movements, must inevitably result in the complete destruction of liberty.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on February 19, 2004 12:21 AM

Insert “discriminates” between “owner of a business” and “in his choice,” para 1. :-/

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on February 19, 2004 12:23 AM

Thanks to Mr. Alvarez for the useful information about Title VII. I was not aware of the definition of religious belief under Title VII and didn’t realize it was so broad. I’m glad to know that a person doesn’t have to be a member of a particular church that has a particular teaching in order to be considered as having a religious belief. So, for example, a person who deeply believed that homosexual activity was wrong on a moral and ethical basis could not be discriminated against because of that. Clearly the employers’ behavior here would be outlawed under Title VII. I don’t follow Mr. Alvarez’s reasoning, however, that all this will be inevitably washed away by the double-standard argument that a belief against homosexuality is akin to racism. The protections afforded by Title VII would seem to be pretty solid. However, I could be entirely wrong.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 19, 2004 12:33 AM

Sorry, I didn’t notice that Mr. Auster had already said a lot of what I said. I guess I skimmed over some of the comments without reading too close.

Posted by: Michael Jose on February 19, 2004 1:53 AM

I am not suggesting that a moral objection to homosexuality is equivalent to racism; I do not believe that it is. However, the homosexual movement, which has become very influential in the judiciary, has tried to equate moral disapproval of homosexual conduct with racism. If the courts adopt the position that homosexuality is a protected class for equal protection purposes (as the Mass. Supreme Court already has), then it is conceivable that employers will be allowed to discriminate against those who are “intolerant” of homosexuality on the grounds that such persons present a source of discord in the workplace. As you know, in Canada and Europe the expression of anti-gay views is deemed to be “hate speech” and is a prosecutable offense in certain cases. The point I was trying to make is that it is only a matter of time before similar laws appear in this country (whether they are passed by legislatures or imposed by the courts). Although I doubt that we will see the criminalization of anti-gay speech because of first amendmemnt protections, once the federal appellate courts (i.e. the Ninth Cir) conclude (as I believe they eventually will) that anti-gay views constitute “hate speech,” then persons who morally disapprove of homosexuality will be in the same legal boat as those who, for example, openly oppose interracial marriages. In other words, they will be formally labled bigots.

Posted by: Manny Alvarez on February 19, 2004 2:30 AM

Mr. Alvarez brings up an important point. The judiciary at both federal and state levels are overwhelmingly populated by leftists and liberals. Even though the language of Title VII is obvious, once a white person is officially branded a “racist”, his thoughts, words, and deeds lose any constitutional protections. Any employer can freely discriminate against members of the overtly racist “World Church of the Creator” with impunity. The same cannot be said for the Nation of Islam, whose members are routinely hired by fire and police departments, for example. The homosexualist goal is the achievement of special status under the equal protection clause (more properly, the liberal, Orwellian perversion of the equal protection clause).

Posted by: Carl on February 19, 2004 11:14 AM
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