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Blatant

This just in: Frank Turek is a noted Christian apologist and campus speaker who, I've just learned, also does secular team-building and training sessions for corporations. Read here from Mike Adams about how Turek was fired abruptly in the middle of a series for Cisco because someone googled his name during a session break and learned that he defends traditional marriage. The HR person who made the firing decision even thanked the googler for "outing" Turek.

Given the existence of religious anti-discrimination laws, I think Turek should seek legal counsel. It seems entirely plausible to my non-professional mind that he has legal recourse here.

HT: Facebook friend Letitia Wong

Comments (41)

It's HR, what do you expect?

Any more tolerance and they'd have shot him on sight.

Being anti-gay in most workplaces (at least in major corporations) is becoming verbotten. I see lots of problems ahead in this area.

I think calling Turek "anti-gay" is a very poor description and and an adoption of the absurd characterizations of the Christian position.

Joel, this was a book he had written entirely separately. It wasn't something he said or did _in the workplace at all_. Whatever phrase you use (and I entirely agree with Robert's objection to the phrase "anti-gay" in this situation), somebody just went and googled something else he had written, and he was fired on that basis. That's an amazing definition of "tolerance" and "inclusivity."

Again, since Turek can almost certainly characterize his position on marriage as connected to his sincerely held religious beliefs, this would seem like it should be a cut-and-dried case of religious discrimination.

It would be more interesting legally if he were an atheist who defended traditional marriage for reasons of societal consequences or something of that sort.

I would also be curious as to whether Cisco has a "political beliefs" non-discrimination policy. Such policies are not (as far as I know) enshrined in law anywhere, but some organizations (such as the American Philosophical Association!) do add that as a protected class. If Cisco does have such a policy, they should be able to be held to account for breaking their own policy even aside from the religious angle.

My impression is that this is a hard row to hoe. Several things come to mind:

1. This fellow was not an employee of Cisco at the time: he was an independent contractor. That almost undoubtedly makes a difference (although it might not, depending on the way the applicable state law reads). But it probably does: you get more freedom retaining and discharging independent contractors.

2. Most caselaw about religious discrimination focuses on either identity ("No Hindus need apply") or practices ("I can't work on Sundays"). A religiously influenced policy opinion doesn't fit nicely into these categories. Courts have been nefariously adept at parsing out beliefs like this. Cisco's defense will be that Mr. Turek is free to maintain any religious identity or belief that he wants, and Cisco did not terminate their agreement with him on any such basis. Cisco terminated Mr. Turek on the grounds that he publicly voiced a philosophical or political opinion inconsistent with Cisco's company policies and image. Cisco chose not to associate with him any further so as to avoid generating confusion regarding its commitments to trendy politically correct mantras.

Keys to that argument are that there were actions (not just beliefs) and that the actions were not directly required by Turek's religion. In other words, they'll argue that Turek's belief about what marriage is religiously is irrelevant to his public statements about what marriage should be legally. The latter isn't a religious matter because Turek can't show that he was under a religious obligation to make those particular statements about the marriage laws.

It's hogswallop, but it could very well work.

If Cisco does have such a policy, they should be able to be held to account for breaking their own policy even aside from the religious angle.

Causes of action based on handbooks and internal policies are difficult to win: there are a lot of hoops to jump through on the way to proving it was meant to be a contract (which is the only ground for invoking them this way in court). Since Turek was an independent contractor, he has zero hope in this approach: he probably never even saw any handbook or set of policies.

It seems to me that the independent contractor line at least makes a kind of sense. The "beliefs vs. actions" thing is codswallop six ways from zero, and one can only imagine how it would be applied to an actual employee:

"Mohammed has a regular job with Cisco. He wrote on a blog that it is contrary to the will of Allah that men should have sexual relations with men. Somebody ad Cisco googled his name and found that he had done this. He was fired _openly_ on the basis of the blog post he wrote."

This wouldn't be litigable, and likely successfully litigable, as religious discrimination? It seems to me it would.

And if the act-belief distinction is simply to be carried to the extent of _expressing_ your beliefs in a completely non-work environment, then the belief could be anything:

"Mr. Jones writes a blog in which he attempts to induce people to join the Jehovah's Witnesses and argues against the doctrine of the Trinity. His employer, a Catholic, googled him and discovered these blog posts. Jones was fired, openly and admittedly on the basis of the blog posts. However, the employer argues that this was not religious discrimination, because Jehovah's Witnesses are not required by their religion to blog in support of it."

I mean, at this point, we're at the end of the reductio, aren't we? If that isn't religious discrimination, I don't know what is.

One does have to wonder how many of these a court really would allow to fly.

Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Matthew 5:11-12

I'm a bit confused. When did Cisco get to define what marriage is? Their corporation cannot tell their employees what opinions to hold on non-Cisco related topics. What does a position on marriage have to do with writing computer code? Now, it may, tangentially, be relevant if one is trying to be a social coach, but if the issue never comes up, then it can't be an issue. I hope the man takes Cisco to the cleaners. This is not an issue of a Fire-at-Will employement (one of the most perverse and unjust types of employement I know of), it seems. There are just some situations where the law is of little use, especially if the law has become corrupted.

The Chicken

Their corporation cannot tell their employees what opinions to hold on non-Cisco related topics.

No, Cisco can't tell employees (or I.C.'s) that: but they can terminate at-will employees or I.C.'s for any non-prohibited cause whatsoever. Wearing an ugly tie today? They could fire you for that. Unless you have a contract stipulating a term of employment, that's the rule. And it works both ways: those employees have the same freedom to leave for other employment whenever they choose (at least at times when there is such a thing as other employment).

Lydia,

I'm not saying that line of reasoning is sensible or is inescapable: I'm saying it's been employed in the past and may be again. But I'm not a labor-law specialist, so I don't want to speculate on all of the possible permutations.

My sense is the same as Titus: as an independent contractor, Cisco had the legal right to sever their connection to him for any reason or for no reason at all - they don't have to have a reason. Even if they made the reason his religious belief, that still would not be in violation of law - it may be illegal to discriminate on employment decisions based on religion, but an IC isn't an employee and doesn't have that protection. If the contract allows the company to dissolve the connection, then that contract is all the protection he has and it isn't enough to cover a religious discrimination basis.

That said, the action they took is horrendous, and should be a big wake-up call to us all. I would recommend boycotting Cisco, except that they are one of those companies whose products are behind-the-scenes: how many of us know what line of network server our doctor uses, or the drug store, or even our own employer? Perhaps a public pressure campaign is more appropriate in this case: there are (still) a lot more straights than gays in America, and they all ought to be more than just a bit unhappy at the idea a company can get rid of you because you blog (or write) intelligent, rational, wholesome beliefs.

Here's the real handwriting on the wall issue, Tony, which is also raised by the article at Townhall: Does Cisco believe that it could legally do this to a regular ordinary employee as well as to an IC? That's kind of huge.

And if the argument in such a case is supposed to be, "We're not firing Joe for holding his religious beliefs but for writing a book on his own personal time advocating those beliefs," then that pretty much guts what I think most people would reasonably have assumed is part of the meaning of a religious non-discrimination law. If a company had a "policy of inclusivity" regarding religion and Joe wrote a book on his own time saying that Jesus is the only way to heaven, he could be fired on that basis with no recourse. And so forth.

I have to say I find it hard to believe that _that_ distinction--between being discriminated against for holding a religious belief and being discriminated against for writing a book advocating it--has actually been upheld in labor law precedents. But maybe I'm just naive.

Is anyone keeping a master list of these incidents? Could come in handy.

In the mind of this liberal manager, I'm afraid the reasoning would have hardly been more sophisticated than this:

"Those who are anti-'gay marriage' must necessarily view gays as sub-human, whether or not they are cognizant of their bigoted view. We obviously would be perfectly justified in our refusal to hire outspoken members of the KKK or the Nazi party, and therefore we are perfectly justified in removing people like Mr. Turek from our midst. That such people are unaware of their bigotry...that they are unaware of the inextricable link between being anti-'gay marriage' and being 'anti-gay'...is not our problem, but theirs (and their psychiatrists')."


Or at least that's been my experience with liberal thinking. On the issue of "gay marriage," the debate has apparently been settled for a while now and is currently filed away in between those over the human status of Jews and the human status of Blacks. The vast majority of us didn't get the memo, though..

Does Cisco believe that it could legally do this to a regular ordinary employee as well as to an IC? That's kind of huge.

I only have an opinion instead of a researched answer, but I think they would need a higher standard to use against an employee, for instance if he was advocating against company policy while on the job. The strange part of this is that Lydia has gone on record saying that Christian employers should have the right to legally discriminate against those who don't conduct their private lives in strict accordance with their employer's expectations. So while I definitely think this fellow was unjustly fired, even though he wasn't a regular employee, I'm a bit confused why Lydia believes "off the clock" behavior should not be relevant to employment.

Step2, I'm on the record in more than one place saying that our biggest problem is that we have the worst of both worlds: On the one hand, discrimination laws are applied and interpreted to mean that what I would consider to be reasonable forms of discrimination are legally disallowed. On the other hand, blatant and unreasonable discrimination against Christians seems to get a pass, either because the law is unequally applied or for some other reason.

I rarely am likely to agree with Dinesh D'Souza (because of the direction he's gone on a couple of issues like Islam over the years) but he wrote a book a while back in which he said in essence about racial discrimination laws that either we should repeal them or we should enforce them even against reverse discrimination--consistently.

That would be my position here: My full-fledged libertarian instincts would be that we'd probably be better off if all non-discrimination laws were repealed, period, even if that meant that Cisco could do whatever it darned will pleased to a Christian employee for some book he wrote off the clock or whatever.

But as long as the laws remain on the books, they should be enforced fairly. Otherwise we're talking about a worst-case scenario and in essence a cultural one-way valve: Belong to a left-wing-designated victim group and you can do what you please, say what you please, make everybody kow-tow, or Big Brother will bring the hammer down on your employer for "discrimination." Be a Christian and you have to live in the closet.

The heck with that. If "off the clock" expression of religious beliefs isn't supposed to be legally relevant to employment--and if that's not the case, I don't know why we even have religious non-discrimination laws--then let's at least give Christians the benefit of that protection, since we would give it to Wiccans or Muslims, etc.

Lydia writes: "as long as the laws remain on the books, they should be enforced fairly."

Good idea.

But how would it work in practice?

Suppose a Christian man is fired for writing a philosophical, non-religious argument against SSM? He's making an effort to pass secular standards of behavior. If his argument isn't religious, firing him for it isn't religious discrimination.

Perhaps we must with reluctance add another category to the proposed ENDA: bar discrimination on the basis of adherence to traditional morals (or words to that effect).

There's a risk such an addition would make ENDA easier to pass. But the addition would more likely be shut down, because the eradication of traditional morals is one of the leftist goals.

Such a failed amendment could expose the double standard. If ENDA-like bills are going through any state legislatures now, perhaps we should suggest opponents try this tactic.

Related note: have you heard about the Tennessee law that prohibits localities from enacting discrimination bills more strict than state or federal standards? http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9NRMN6G0.htm

It's a small sign of counter-revolution, but useless to those of us who already live in strict states. (I also don't know how it will hold up under Romer v. Evans. If only Colorado's Amendment 2 had used the Tennessee bill's language!).


Suppose a Christian man is fired for writing a philosophical, non-religious argument against SSM? He's making an effort to pass secular standards of behavior. If his argument isn't religious, firing him for it isn't religious discrimination.

Yes, I think that's a relevant point, but one can't do everything even in terms of enforcing things fairly. I mentioned above the possibility of a non-believer who made a secular argument against SS"M" as a similar issue. But truth to tell, there are going to be enough situations where religion _is_ an issue that a counter-revolution can certainly be made along those lines. That's proven to be true over and over again in the UK. A woman there was recently disciplined for giving a Christian pamphlet to a co-worker, not for purposes of evangelizing the co-worker, but because it was a medical facility where they were not giving the women alternatives to abortion, and the Christian employee thought they should give more consideration to the negative consequences of abortion, for the sake of their clients. The pamphlet she used for this purpose happened to be a strongly Christian item containing stories of women suffering from post-abortion trauma and giving their lives to Christ. Her using this as a discussion-starter of the problems with abortion-biased counseling was treated as a _huge_ piece of professional misconduct, and she was relocated to a less desirable job as punishment. That's another similar case.

If a company like Cisco believes it can just "out" anyone who has written anywhere in support of normal marriage and fire the person post-haste, I predict we won't lack for religious discrimination cases. And if the point were once made, I think people who made non-religious arguments would be a lot safer too.

I know the original intent of the law was to cut down on litigation, but I maintain that the fire-at-will laws are extremely unjust. It forces the relationship between employer/employee to be nothing but mercinerial. It reduces human relations to nothing but dollar signs and commodities. I was once fired, unjustly, from a job using the FAW ruling. I had no appeal, even though I went out in a blinding snowstorm on the bus to work (and I was the only person to show up). Loyalty, which is a higher metaphysical good in a relationship than money, went out the door. This is exactly like divorce-at-will in society. With laws like FAW, what's the use in trying to convince young people tha ALL relationships aren't desposible?

I say, again, FAW is the root of the problem in this case, not Turek's beliefs, which have little bearing on the job he contracted for. Indeed, holding marriage as a permanent institution could only give him more example of consensus building, for that is a large part of marriage. Apparently, Cisco doesn't want to build a corporate consensus based on a careful examination of the truth. It seems to me that they simply want to impose their will on a captive audience. They are metaphysical cowards and moral bullies.

I am not sorry that Turek's got fired. God did him a favor by delivering him from the clutches of a company that spells truth with an I.

The Chicken

The rational decision by Cisco management would be to simply fire every HR employee involved for wasting company resources. They apparently failed to do due diligence on the man and that resulted in a lot of wasted money on employee time, trainer time, etc. The obvious thing to do is punish HR for their irresponsibility.

** That won't happen because HR is typically "white welfare" for girls who majored in Sociology, Political Science and Psychology...

They apparently failed to do due diligence on the man and that resulted in a lot of wasted money on employee time, trainer time, etc.

That's pretty weird, Mike. It implies that there is some rational connection between what he was talking about in the training sessions and his opinions on homosexual "marriage." There isn't. The issue wasn't connected at all. This was pure ideological rooting-out: We will not "taint" our business by hiring an IC to do teamwork training sessions who, completely separately, has written a book espousing a political and ideological position we loathe. To bring in the concept of "due diligence" there is about like saying that if a company is owned by a Raelian its HR fails to do "due diligence" if they hire an IC for, I dunno, computer programing who happens to have written a book about the dangers of cults! There is no business connection here at all. The matter is one of the purest ideology.

Lydia, I think that Mike intended for his comment to approach the matter not from his point of view but from the point of view of Cisco's managers, hence its weirdness. If it is truly important for them that the people running the training sessions be ideologically pure, then the HR employees failed to do their job when they let Turek through without a 'background check.' Perhaps this situation calls for an internal memo for distribution in the HR department listing all of the opinions that training session leaders are forbidden to have.

Perhaps this situation calls for an internal memo for distribution in the HR department listing all of the opinions that training session leaders are forbidden to have.

Which is an amusing thought, in a bitter sort of way.

Lydia, I think that Mike intended for his comment to approach the matter not from his point of view but from the point of view of Cisco's managers, hence its weirdness.

Precisely. By even a seriously liberal metric, the HR Department's behavior is 100% fail. Logically, every HR drone involve deserves to thrown out the door without so much as a severance check.

To bring in the concept of "due diligence" there is about like saying that if a company is owned by a Raelian its HR fails to do "due diligence" if they hire an IC for, I dunno, computer programing who happens to have written a book about the dangers of cults!

If you have a policy of terminating contracts over outside-of-work ideological impurity then it is a failure of due diligence. It's like failing to do a background check on someone before handing out a security clearance, only to find out that they're not even a US citizen. It's such epic fail that heads must roll on such a scale that it's like in the Old Testament where Moses adds "and they shall see what happened, tremble in fear and it shall never again be done in your lands."

Well, but why get fierce about it like that, when the ideological purity check is perverse and wrong? I mean, seriously. Let's leave IC's out of it for a moment: I don't think it would be a better world if all the corporate giants started checking every potential employee for liberal ideological purity before hiring! That would just be reifying a horrible trend.

Do we really _want_ every employer in the nation to require every potential employee to sign an agreement before getting the job that says, "I John Doe do hereby affirm the wonderfulness of sodomite unions and do hereby cheer heartily for their being given the status of marriage"? Um, no, we don't.

You might ask someone who claims, "I can't work on Sundays". What is the Christian definition of the word "work". I ask because even the UK Department of Works and Pensions do not know and I have contracted for going with out my right to be shown the authority they rely on for the meaning of the word work.

When most people in authority are unable to produce authority for the basic definition of a word they use in everyday life then, there is an extremely and fundamentally good reason for a crusade against corruption.

The problem is that even if some people are intellectual enough to confuse the issues amongst men they lack conscientiousness and thus, even though God is all forgiving, he will still punish severely those who are not righteous enough to sustain a defence against the most serious charge/crime/sin of them all namely; hypocrisy.

Martin

Well, but why get fierce about it like that, when the ideological purity check is perverse and wrong?

Just to be vindictive about the fact that they couldn't even be competent in their brownshirt behavior. If you're going to punish someone for "ideological impurity," at least be efficient about using corporate funds to do it.

Do we really _want_ every employer in the nation to require every potential employee to sign an agreement before getting the job that says, "I John Doe do hereby affirm the wonderfulness of sodomite unions and do hereby cheer heartily for their being given the status of marriage"? Um, no, we don't.

The larger problem here is that we haven't codified basic labor rights for outside of work behavior. For example, it should be automatically unenforceable to make an employee sign an agreement saying you own anything they do off company time and equipment unless a reasonable person would say it complements or competes with the products they make on company time. Most states, however, allow your employer to make you sign away all productive rights you have. There is a slippery slope between this practice and enforcing ideological purity outside of work or even on the job.

A practical reform here would be to get rid of the "toxic workplace" laws that make employers feel like they have to police their workers' behavior. Thin-skinned people should have no legally cognizable right to peace of mind (by their standards) on the job. That should be reserved for people of normal dispositions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if someone files a complaint about offensive conduct that gets you unduly fired, we should even go so far as to make that person civilly liable for the loss of employment and any substantial financial harm the terminated employee faces.

Then there are non-compete agreements which limit the freedom of association rights of workers. In certain industries, these are a form of indentured servitude because leaving your job is tantamount to a career change. What we need is a clear, simple and extremely limited whitelist of actions that are permissible about an employer's rights over their employees off the job.

I'm not at all sure I agree, Mike. There are reasonable and unreasonable, just and unjust employer concerns about off-the-job behavior. For example, plenty of off-the-job behavior that is, unfortunately, legal in our society is an indication of a seriously disturbed mind and of the sort of person one would understandably not want to be working with closely on a day-to-day basis. I have no desire for the government to set up such a whitelist.

Naturally, I think this particular form of discrimination (against a person who defends marriage) is one of the unjust ones and would object to it on that basis no matter what.

But more than that, it is particularly disturbing because traditionalists do not have recourse to parallel moves on their own side. This is especially true where "sexual orientation" is a specially protected class and where those advocating a homosexual lifestyle identify as homosexual themselves. Any attempt to discriminate against such a person for writing a parallel book on the other side of the issue would be illegal, because his book-writing would be treated as part of his "identity" based on his "orientation," etc.

With "gender identity" entering the protected class status list in some cities, we've moved to the point where bizarre and distracting at-work appearance and self-presentation now cannot even legally be taken into account from what I would call a "normal" point of view, but rabid liberals can take into account off-the-job violation of their ideology in otherwise excellent employees (or consultants), as in the present case.

Cultural conservatives cannot create a job culture or company culture that reflects their worldview, but virulent left-wing ideologues can.

It is the cultural one-way valve that is so especially alarming here and that conservatives need to wake up to. The phenomenon is even farther advanced in England. It has come to the point in some places that perverts and weirdos of almost any stripe can get as in-your-face as they want, and ordinary people are not permitted to "discriminate" against them, but people with traditional opinions can scarcely express those in a whisper, much less in public, without being hounded out of the ability to make a living. And that's what the leftists are aiming for. We shouldn't mistake their goals.

An example of the one-way valve in action:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/11/speak_now_or_forever_hold_your.html

Clearly, it was Vadala who was being subjected to a "hostile work environment," yet his harasser got to bill herself as the victim. What a sickening and upside-down world.

"traditionalists do not have recourse to parallel moves on their own side. This is especially true where "sexual orientation" is a specially protected class and where those advocating a homosexual lifestyle identify as homosexual themselves."

Any chance that "homophobia" could be defined as a protected sexual orientation? Revulsion is an orientation away from something, after all.

But is it a _sexual_ orientation, Kevin? :-)

The employee who googled Frank's name and complained to the HR person should have been told this, "We understand that you disagree with Mr. Turek's views on homosexuality and the morality of certain conduct between consenting adults. And Mr. Turek, of course, disagrees with you. The issue over which you disagree is one on which reasonable citizens from differing moral traditions hold contrary views. As an adult in a free society, it is your duty--if you care about your own intellectual and emotional maturity--to learn how to appreciate that people of good will can strongly disagree and yet show respect for one another. To `tattle' on him is inconsistent with how adults should conduct their disagreements in public. But since Mr. Turek has never brought his views to bear in the seminars that you have attended, it is not our concern. In fact, if we were to make it our concern, it would be inconsistent with our company's commitment to diversity and tolerance. So, please sir, grow a pair and quit whining to us as if we were your Mommy."

Another thing that bothers me: even if trads had "recourse to parallel moves," I don't think we have stomach for the parallel fight through the corporate and government bureaucracies that gay rights partisans have undertaken.

You have to be a lawsuit-happy crusading jackass to exploit anti-discrimination laws, and that's just not our temperament.

But then, that's not really a common temperament among anybody. Perhaps all the crusading jackassery would be done by a few organizations based in D.C.

I was more thinking of "parallel moves" along the lines of setting up conservative-friendly businesses. That we _do_ have a taste for, but they'd find a way to sue us out of it.

Another thing that bothers me: even if trads had "recourse to parallel moves," I don't think we have stomach for the parallel fight through the corporate and government bureaucracies that gay rights partisans have undertaken.

Hey America will go bankrupt in the next decade or so and it's in decline. By that time government and corporations would all be broke and have collapsed.

Actually, as an IC, I would think he may have more recourse, as it would imply he had a contract in order to be an independent contractor. Most service providers do have some form of an agreement; I assume CISCO didn't just pick him up off the street to come in and start speaking. It would boil down to what the termination provisions in the contract say.

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