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Court: Anti-Gay Christian Bigot Not Protected by 1964 Civil Rights Act

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against a Wal-Mart worker who sued the company after she was fired for an anti-gay diatribe against homosexuality during a work break, Gay City News reports:

Walmart According to the unsigned ruling, Tanisha Matthews, who describes herself as an Apostolic Christian, worked as an overnight stocker at a Wal-Mart store in Joliet, Illinois. While on a break, she took part in a heated conversation with other employees about God and homosexuality.

Another employee who participated reported to management that Matthews was "screaming over her" that God does not accept gays, they should not "be on earth," and they will "go to hell" because they are not "right in the head." During a company investigation of the incident, five other employees confirmed that Matthews said gays are sinners who are going to hell.

Wal-Mart managers considered these remarks to be "serious harassment" in violation of the company's "Zero Tolerance" harassment policy, which bars any conduct that could be interpreted as harassment on the basis of categories that include sexual orientation. Serious harassment is considered "gross misconduct" that is grounds for dismissal.

Matthews sued, claiming religious discrimination in violation of the 1964 Act. She pointed out that her work record up until then had been satisfactory, so it was clear she was fired for her religiously-based statements about gay people.

Wal-Mart Harassment Policy Trumps Religious Bigotry [gay city news]

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Comments

  1. She has nothing to worry about. The Big Invisible Bi-Polar Daddy Who Lives in the Sky will protect her.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Apr 5, 2011 2:28:02 PM


  2. I am confused was she directing her diatribe against someone who is gay or lesbian or was she expressing her belief in an overheated and over zealous manner ? If the latter, I'm not so sure the ruling was correct.

    Posted by: jerry | Apr 5, 2011 2:36:12 PM


  3. Didn't bigots back in the day say the same things about African American people too? Ignorance is alive and well.

    Posted by: John Normile | Apr 5, 2011 2:42:10 PM


  4. Interesting question, JERRY. But if Walmart has a policy of no harassing language of any kind against any group based on their race, religion, sex, physical disabilty or sexual orientation then the store was absolutely correct in firing this woman. The harassment may not have to be directed at a specific individual for the offending employee to be disciplined.

    I'm glad about the ruling. People, no matter what their educational level, have got to be taught the hard way that you don't have the right to make the work place uncomfortable for fellow employees who you "just don't like."

    Gracious, how many times did I deal with fellow employees who got away with being damn ignorant out loud--especially on this particular topic. All I could at the time was fantasize stabbing them to death...or atleast an appropriate facial mutilation.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Apr 5, 2011 2:49:38 PM


  5. @ Jerry -

    Nowhere in the Bible (from where I'm assuming the employee drew her beliefs) does it say that LGBT folks are not "right in the head." That's only a (discredited) psychological theory. And to state that someone should not be on this earth because they are gay sounds closer to a threat than a religious conviction. I don't care how overheated she gets, if she wants to intimidate and/or threaten people, gay or not, perhaps the workplace isn't for her.

    Posted by: massachewsits | Apr 5, 2011 2:59:36 PM


  6. good

    they didn't fire her for being a xtian

    they fired her for being a danger to others "...they should not "be on earth,"..." = sounds like a taliban esque crazy killer

    Posted by: mstrozfckslv@yahoo.com | Apr 5, 2011 3:16:25 PM


  7. If the conversation had been civil and she had allowed others their say instead of "screaming over her" Walmart would have been wrong in firing her (and, quite possibly, no complaint would have been filed). However, in usurping the conversation in a manner that allowed no discourse but her own, she is indeed harassing other employees and creating a hostile workplace. I would not tolerate that in my employees either.

    Posted by: AggieCowboy | Apr 5, 2011 3:18:39 PM


  8. I'd like to add that it's difficult the discussion would have gotten heated if someone weren't directly confronted by this "christian's" blather about who Jesus hates.

    What I'm getting at is that even if no one in the discussion was gay him or herself, i'm sure plenty of people who work for WalMart have gay family members and friends whom they love. I'd find it personally very disturbing if I had to listen to this kind of s**t being said about someone I loved whether I were gay or not.

    Posted by: Danny | Apr 5, 2011 3:18:42 PM


  9. sorry for my sloppy editing:

    I meant:

    "It's difficult TO BELIEVE the discussion would have gotten heated if someone weren't directly confronted..."

    Posted by: Danny | Apr 5, 2011 3:25:24 PM


  10. Not so sure. I know a (former) Wall*Mart employee who was fired for uttering an expletive in the back room, but not directed at anyone. The Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ruled, and rightly so imo, that it was not an actionable offense if not directed at another employee or a customer.

    In the case in question, however, it's clear that there was a "discussion," meaning other people were involved. I don't think it's necessary to determine the sexual orientation of everyone involved in that discussion to conclude it was harassment.

    Posted by: Zlick | Apr 5, 2011 3:30:50 PM


  11. Perhaps the law or Walmart policies don't directly cover this, but I believe family members of gay people have a right not to be subject to this kind of horrible faux-christian braying in the workplace.

    Posted by: Danny | Apr 5, 2011 3:32:40 PM


  12. While I am glad to see the ruling as well, it may be reversed on appeal to SCOTUS which will only serve to strengthen the likes of her.
    It doesn't matter as to the legitimacy of her religious beleifs, just that they are part of some type of religion is all that is required.
    Given that SCOTUS now extends 1st Amendment protection to hate speech ( as witnessed by the Westboro Baptist decisions )in addiiton to political speech, it is very likely that this decison would be over-turned on appeal.

    Posted by: jerry | Apr 5, 2011 3:41:11 PM


  13. I just wish that corporate and political BULLYING would cease. As a parent I try so hard to teach my children the values to be kind to others, REGARDLESS. It's so sad that even as adults, some people still have to act younger than a two year old.

    As a psychology major in college, I personally was NEVER taught that LGBT people were "sick in the head," and even as a straight, married female (not that it makes a difference at all), I find this to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard! Being gay doesn't automatically diagnose one as mentally ill, as it doesn't being straight!

    I honestly don't get involved in religious beliefs, because if there were a GOD or Jesus Christ, to me, there would not be ANY discrimination across the board. That's all this world is based upon anymore...discrimination. Sad, so sad.

    I really, really enjoy reading this blog and please believe that not everyone out there is a discriminating bigot!

    Posted by: Shae | Apr 5, 2011 3:46:30 PM


  14. Jerry,

    The decision won't be reversed by SCOTUS on First Amendment grounds. The First Amendment only applies to state actors. WalMart isn't a government entity so the First Amendment doesn't apply here.

    Also harassment doesn't have to be directed at any person for it to be actionable. For example, putting up pornographic photos all over the place would likely be found to create a hostile work environment in a case in which a female sued for sexual harassment.

    Posted by: Eric | Apr 5, 2011 4:28:03 PM


  15. @Jerry, the Supreme Court didn't extend 1st Amendment protection to Hate Speech. In the Phelps case, they were protecting free (abhorrent) speech in a place where free speech is allowed. (The Phelps clan are hateful lunatics, but they're lunatics who know their free speech boundaries.)

    The work place is different. You can't harass other employees in the work place or create a hostile environment, especially if your place of employment has specific rules about it. This was quite clearly a case of harassing speech, whether or not she was addressing a particular gay person. Someone speaking out against Christians in a similar manner would likely and rightly face similar consequences.

    Posted by: Ernie | Apr 5, 2011 4:56:23 PM


  16. It's nice to see "the masses" s-l-o-w-l-y start to see blatant homophobia in the same category as racism and sexism. You can't get a truer slice of "the masses" than Wal-mart. I savor each tiny step.

    Posted by: Tommy | Apr 5, 2011 5:19:29 PM


  17. That WalMart has a zero tolerance policy regarding harassment of this type is news to me. I was already aware that their nondiscrimination policy included sexual orientation.

    WalMart has an image as a "conservative, family-values" company. Which anti-gay organization will be the first to call for a boycott of WalMart because it fires Christians who are "just sharing the whole counsel of the Bible." I'll wager it will be the American Family Association.

    Posted by: jpeckjr | Apr 6, 2011 12:22:08 AM


  18. So since LGBT's are supposed to stay away from Target because of a political contribution in Minnesota, are we supposed to shop at WalMart now because they fire people who hate us? I just can't keep up . . .

    Posted by: james | Apr 6, 2011 12:24:35 AM


  19. i'm not defending this bigot, let me say up front.

    however, it is inconceivable that in a "heated" discussion, this woman would not have also been called a "bigot" or a "christian lunatic" by another worker -- especially if there were a gay worker present, because we all know how civil gays tend to be in "heated discussions" about homosexuality!

    it is inevitable that the appeal will eventually succeed if any ripostes along those lines are delivered -- even if the woman started the discussion -- because the firing of this woman and no other member of the "heated discussion" constitutes are *clear* instance of discriminatory decision making.

    unfortunately, that some similarly "heated" back-and-forth would have transpired is almost a certainty. after all, the only people who are as single-mindedly intolerant as christians are mainstream, or "scene", homosexuals. there's even a few examples in the comments here: "danger to others" -- seriously? get over yourself, princess, and maybe you can start learning to get over hateful paleomoral christians who are increasingly becoming extinct.

    when the militant self-obsession that we more socially-well-adjusted gays have come to abhor loses currency, maybe people will finally come to accept the lack of any substantive distinction between gays and heterosexuals. until then, however -- and so long as the ridiculous, hysterical affectations of fruitcake gays are still in vogue (again, "danger to others"!?) -- people like this woman are always going to exist, their biases only *reinforced* by the self-righteous and narcissistic behaviour of many in the homosexual community.

    Posted by: jack frost | Apr 6, 2011 1:12:11 AM


  20. She is an idiot! Private employer no harassment policies are very straight forward. She can stand on the street and scream all day long and be protected but in the private industry and on the job she is out. Clearly she is not very bright and there is nothing about this case that any court, whether conservative or liberal leaning, wouldn't uphold. When will people get it through their thick skulls that you have freedom of speech and freedom of religion but there are consequences for every behavior?

    Posted by: RB | Apr 6, 2011 8:22:48 AM


  21. "the only people who are as single-mindedly intolerant as christians are mainstream, or 'scene', homosexuals . . . "

    @JF: You're making all kinds of anti-gay projections in your post based on no evidence whatsoever, based only on your erroneous projections of what so-called "scene homosexuals" (who work at Wal-Mart??!!) are like. The only evidence here is that the bigot was harassing her co-workers and creating a hostile work environment. Your filling in of the scene to equally bash gay co-workers (about whom you know zilch) reveals nothing but your internalized homophobia.

    Posted by: Ernie | Apr 6, 2011 9:57:26 AM


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