Monday, June 13, 2022

LGBTQ+ rights vs. religious liberty

"It's an abomination to God. Rainbow is not meant to be displayed as a sign for sexual gender."

That's what Daniel Snyder wrote on the electronic bulletin board of his employer, Arconic. According to the Des Moines Register and Snyder's recently filed lawsuit, it's also what got him fired.

Last June, Snyder received an email from Arconic CEO Tim Myers, which invited employees to respond to an anonymous "engagement survey" for ideas on how the company could improve. Instead of clicking the link for the survey, however, Snyder clicked a link taking him page on the company's electronic employee bulletin board promoting Gay Pride Month. Seeing the rainbow flag, and thinking he was offering his anonymous input on how his employer could improve, Snyder wrote his comment about the rainbow flag being an "abomination."

Arconic suspended and then fired Snyder for violating the company's diversity policy. In his lawsuit, Snyder claims that the termination violated his sincerely held Christian belief that "the Bible shows that the rainbow is a sign of the covenant between God and man, and thus that it is sacrilegious to use the rainbow to promote relationships and ideologies that violate God's law." Snyder's lawsuit claims that Arconic's "diversity policy" only works one way, and illegally discriminates against Christians who hold a view contrary to the company's view of acceptable diversity.

In my opinion, Snyder's lawsuit faces a tough uphill battle. 

Employees have the right to believe what they believe, privately. Whether it's LGBTQ+ rights, or a Black Lives Matter button, or a MAGA hat, employees have the right to their own belief structures, and employers should not force, under threat of termination or otherwise, employees to support something with which they do not agree or that offends them.

Yet, covering this ideal under the broad shroud of "religious liberty" is dangerous. It's a slippery slope between the religious freedom to be personally offended by the rainbow flag, to firing an LGBTQ+ employee, to firing an African-American employee, all in the name of "it's against my religious beliefs."

A refusal to discipline or fire him in the name of protecting his "religions beliefs" would have placed Arconic on the "razor's edge of liability by exposing it to claims of permitting workplace harassment," a position that courts do not sanction.

Title VII does not require complete harmony in the workplace. Indeed, in the words of the Supreme Court, "The skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints." Diversity, however, cannot mean that an employer must permit employees to express bigoted views, even if those bigoted views are grounded in the employee's religious beliefs.