Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Obama tolerance police accused of intolerance
The government agency charged with investigating discrimination in the workplace is itself facing a discrimination lawsuit by a worker claiming he was forced to violate his religious beliefs.
Greg Somers, an investigator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has filed a lawsuit over an agency policy requiring employees to investigate and prosecute claims against employers based on allegations of “sexual orientation.”
However, claims of discrimination based on “sexual orientation” have no basis in federal law.
In 2011, the EEOC, under the Obama administration, issued a policy directive requiring that claims of discrimination on the basis of lesbian, “gay,” bisexual or transgender status be processed as gender discrimination.
Shortly after the memo was issued, Somers requested a religious exemption from being forced to investigate LGBT claims, arguing it violated his sincerely held religious belief that homosexuality, along with adultery and other sexual practices, is a personal choice. Towards the end of last year, after working its way through the federal administrative process, Somers was told his request had been denied.
Somers has since filed a lawsuit against the EEOC alleging his rights are being violated under the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The suit also claims that the EEOC policy violates the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.
“I regret the EEOC’s decision to refuse to accommodate my religious beliefs,” Somers said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Tolerance of religious beliefs and freedom of religion are fundamental constitutional rights. No one should have to choose between their lifelong career and their religious beliefs.”
Tim Newton, an attorneys representing Somers, said legislators have made it plain they never intended for sexual orientation to be covered under existing anti-discrimination laws.
“In every Congress since 1994, with the exception of the 109th Congress, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been introduced,” Newton explained. “This act, were it to be enacted, would expand the definition of discrimination in employment to include sexual orientation. This is a plain indication that Congress never intended for sexual orientation or gender identity to be covered under title VII’s existing non-discrimination provisions.”
The EEOC acknowledges on its website that federal law does not specifically cover discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In a section titled “Facts about Discrimination in Federal Government Employment Based on Marital Status, Political Affiliation, Status as a Parent, Sexual Orientation, or Transgender (Gender Identity) Status,” the agency says federal laws “prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information, as well as reprisal for protected activity.”
The EEOC then goes on to admit that it has arbitrarily decided to extend classes listed under the law to include individuals engaged in the “gay” lifestyle as well as transgenders.
“The EEOC has held that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender (also known as gender identity discrimination) is discrimination because of sex and therefore is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the agency says. “The commission has also found that claims by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals alleging sex-stereotyping state a sex discrimination claim under Title VII.”
On the group’s “Sex-based discrimination” page, the agency also claims LGBT individuals are permitted to file claims over “adverse actions taken because of the person’s non-conformance with sex stereotypes.”
“Under the Constitution the executive branch is supposed to enforce the law, but is it is supposed to enforce the law as set forth by the legislature which has the responsibility for actually enacting the law,” Newton said. “When that begins to be short-circuited there is a real vulnerability towards arbitrary actions by the government.”
He went on to explain there are several important issues in the case.
“One of them is that the EEOC has refused to accommodate Mr. Somers’ request that he be exempted from these types of cases because they are against his sincerely held religious beliefs. That’s a federal employment law claim,” he said. “Somers is also arguing that the EEOC overstepped its bounds by implementing a policy without authorization from Congress.”
He went on to explain that even if Congress were to enact ENDA, Somers should still be entitled to a religious exemption from investigating LGBT cases.
“There are claims both on statutory and constitutional rights of religious freedom that would allow him to argue that even if ENDA was passed and authorized the EEOC’s actions, it would still violate the rights of religious conscience if people were forced to comply with it against the religious beliefs.”
Newton said if the EEOC is permitted to arbitrarily determine who is a protected class under discrimination law with no legislative oversight, it would have a chilling effect on all employers.
“What’s at issue is the EEOC’s decision to make sexual orientation a protected class so that nobody, regardless of what they believe on the matter, can make any employment determinations based on that. They are essentially forcing people to come in line with a particular ideological view through the coercion of the government.”
He went on to explain that with the push to expand discrimination status to LGBT members, the courts are beginning to find themselves forced to deal with the issue of what to do when different civil rights collide with each other. For instance, if a woman objects to a person who claims to be a woman being in the same restroom with her, what are her civil rights?
“When individual rights collide, I believe the Constitution should do is promote fairness so that on the one hand the government is not arbitrarily and wrongfully denying fundamental rights, but on the other hand that same government is not being used as a tool by one group to essentially cram their views down the throats of another group.”
Newton said rather than deny Somers’ request for an exemption he believes the EEOC should instead be grateful for his being honest about his religious beliefs.
“It seems to make sense that someone who believes that they have been discriminated against by their employer on the base of sexual orientation would want an investigator who was sympathetic with their position,” Newton said. “Rather than deny his exemption request they should attempt to try to find an accommodation. The EEOC should not force an employee to violate their conscience or force them to choose between their faith and their job.”
As Support For Gay Marriage Grows, An Opponent Looks Ahead
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on gay marriage, Maggie Gallagher, one of the nation's leading voices in opposition to same-sex marriage, is also preparing for what might come next.
Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, likes to call herself an "accidental activist." After graduating from Yale in 1982, she thought she'd become a writer and focus on what she called "important things," like money and war. She never fathomed she'd end up on TV almost daily, smack in the middle of the war zone over gay marriage.
Indeed, Gallagher only started speaking against gay marriage in 2003, when, she says, she could no longer avoid it. She'd spent the prior decade publically warning about the decline in marriage in general — how the sexual revolution, feminism and divorce were threatening the institution and children. Then gay marriage lurched out as the biggest threat of all.
Gallagher's crusade to save the institution of marriage was driven by her own experience as a young, unwed mother and the pain she saw in her own son.
"By time he was 2, he was asking where his dad was," Gallagher says. "And I think it's wrong to deliberately create a child, consciously depriving them of either their mother [or] father."
Gallagher's beef with gay marriage is actually more practical than moral or religious — although she is a practicing Catholic. If you believe that kids need a mom and dad, she argues, you simply can't endorse same-sex marriage at the same time. If you do endorse gay marriage, her argument continues, you automatically send the message that a married mom and dad are not really critical. And then, she insists, more kids will end up hurt.
A Deep Conviction
"I don't like saying this, in one way, because it's not like a contest. But in truth, the suicide rates of teenagers whose parents divorce are elevated at about same rates as teenagers who are LGBT," Gallagher says. "But we don't hear much about the one and we hear a lot about the other. You know, Lady Gaga is not making songs about it."
That's exactly why Gallagher says she's focusing now on what she calls "culture creating." She's not quitting the fight, she says, but rather making sure that even if the legal battle ends, the fight for traditional marriage will go on.
"I'm thinking more hard about — how do we sustain the ideal of marriage that I care about if this idea is treated as the moral and legal equivalent of racism in the public square?" she says.
"We need a social institution for attaching fathers to the mother-child bond," she says. "And for communicating to young people — in the midst of their sexual, romantic, erotic dramas — that they have a serious responsibility to try to get this great good for their children. And that's the heart of marriage as an idea."
These days, Gallagher spends less time making her case against gay marriage than she does trying to convince people that there's even a legitimate case to be made.
"I have always believed that gay people are human beings with human dignity who need to be treated with respect," Gallagher says. "But that's different from having a foundational norm that says there is no morally relevant difference between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships and [that] if you see one, you're like a bigot who's opposed to interracial marriage."
If being on the front line of such a heated debate takes a toll on Gallagher, she doesn't show it.
"I'm not worried about me. Maggie's fine. Everything's cool," she says. "I do worry about other people — I worry when I get an email from a woman who's a nurse in a hospital, who wrote a letter to the editor opposing gay marriage, and finds that she fears her job is in jeopardy."
What Gallagher will never understand, however, is how gay marriage could ever be considered "marriage." She's focusing now on new ways to strengthen what she calls the "culture of marriage," through the arts and churches, for example.
With several polls now showing public support for gay marriage at greater than 50 percent and growing, Gallagher says she's less optimistic about her cause than she used to be, but still holds on to hope.
"I was told when I was young that there would be no more people opposing abortion and that communism was the inevitable way of future," she laughs. "So, first of all, I just don't believe in inevitability."
But Gallagher has definitely adjusted for the possibility. A decade after declaring that gay marriage was threatening civilization, her mission has evolved from staving off the threat to making the world safe for dissent.
Three cheers for the Scottish football fans fighting back
How Scottish football fans are resisting the state's violent clampdown on their speech and behaviour
Last Saturday, around 200 supporters of one of Glasgow’s two big football clubs, Celtic, attempted to march along Glasgow’s Gallowgate to Celtic Park before the game against Aberdeen, in protest against police harassment and victimisation. Within seconds, they were met by a massive force of Strathclyde Police, more than 200 officers dressed in yellow fluorescent jackets, with batons drawn. This force was supported by 30 police vans, scores of other vehicles, mounted police on horseback, dog units, a police helicopter and a camera surveillance team.
As police waded into the crowd, making 13 arrests, they knocked several young fans, and at least one elderly fan, to the ground. In one video clip, posted on YouTube, four burly officers can be seen forcing a young fan flat on his stomach with his face pushed into a puddle. As passing fans tried to film this brutal treatment, they were threatened with arrest for daring to film police action. Unfortunately for Strathclyde Police, videos of Saturday’s protest have nonetheless been posted on social-media sites, showing various incidents of ill-treatment.
The supporters targeted at the weekend are members of the Green Brigade (GB), a noisy, radical and pro-Irish republican section of the Celtic fanbase. Their refusal to stop singing pro-IRA songs, which some people find offensive, has earned them enemies in high places. They are despised by Scotland’s SNP government. GB had announced that it intended to march against police harassment and the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012, which restricts what fans can sing, shout and do at games. But before they could set off, police moved in to stop them in a military-style operation. The latest examples of police brutality come on the back of lawyers claiming that many fans have been mistreated under the new football legislation.
Strathclyde Police regularly treat Celtic fans, and GB in particular, as scum. However, the police are not used to having to defend or account for their actions in the media. In this respect, their behaviour on Saturday backfired badly. One of Scotland’s leading legal figures, Brian McConnachie QC, publicly condemned the police, even talking of a ‘police state’. He also cast doubt on the police’s official version of events, pointing out that the huge numbers of officers who arrived on the scene armed with cameras, batons, a helicopter and dogs were clearly not, as the police had claimed, just spontaneously responding to reports of a large gathering.
McConnachie was right to challenge the police’s ludicrous version of events. This was a premeditated act of police intimidation. Responding to the police attack, a Labour member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Neil Findlay, noted: ‘As predicted in parliament, the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill is being used to criminalise working-class young men, with Old Firm [Celtic and Rangers] fans singled out.’ Another Labour MSP, Michael McMahon, ridiculed the police. He highlighted the irony of football fans marching against police harassment and then being met by the very victimisation and heavy-handed treatment that they were complaining of. MSP Hugh Henry accused the SNP justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, of introducing legislation that was being used to harass Celtic and Rangers fans on a daily basis.
For over a year now, I have documented incidents of police harassment of Celtic fans. One year on from the introduction of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, it is clear that those in power feel increasingly emboldened in their targeting and harassment of supporters. We have seen dawn raids and arrests of teenage fans, while other fans have been stopped at airports or questioned at their place of work. Social gatherings have been broken up or threatened, as the authorities have mounted all-out assaults on any resistance to the new law.
GB has borne the brunt of this intimidation because its members refuse to be told what they can and cannot sing. They are loathed by SNP politicians and police alike, precisely because they refuse to comply with the latest diktat on how fans should behave at a football match. Ironically, the very thing that makes GB seem dangerous to the authorities is the same thing that makes them attractive to growing numbers of fans: a sense of resistance and a refusal to be treated like naughty schoolchildren.
The emboldened and intolerant authorities are now being put on the backfoot. Alongside GB’s fightback, an umbrella group called Fans Against Criminalisation (FAC) is coordinating a series of public protests, the biggest of which will be a mass rally at George Square in Glasgow in early April. FAC says ‘the horrific scenes on Saturday represent a ratcheting up of the assault on the civil liberties (and bodies) of Celtic fans…’
People who care about freedom, and the basic right to attend a football match without being hassled by the police, should support the fightback by groups like GB and FAC. They are showing fans everywhere that it is possible to organise against authoritarian policing. They are a reminder that that we do not have to accept censorship of our songs or seek approval for the banners we wave. Over-the-top policing and petty restrictions on our behaviour are not natural; they are not just everyday things that we should accept as fate. They are things that we can, and should, overthrow.
Strong evangelical influence in Brazil
A Leftist complains below
On March 7, Brazil’s House of Representatives elected Marco Feliciano, a right-wing Pentecostal pastor from the country’s Social Christian Party (PSC), as president of the lower chamber’s Human Rights and Minorities’ Commission (CDHM).
The CDHM was created in 1995, during Brazil’s re-democratization process, to serve as a bridge between congress and social movements on reproductive rights and domestic violence campaigns; anti-racism and anti-homophobia campaigns; as well as protections for indigenous people, women, and children. The CDHM was also the home of a working group dedicated to the truth and memory of those killed or disappeared during Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964–1985. With such an agenda to fulfill, the CDHM has long been the province of progressive politicians. Indeed, Feliciano’s election is only the second time the Commission has been headed by a right-wing party.
But this time, the situation is particularly alarming. Feliciano, an Assembly of God pastor elected in 2011 as a parliamentary representative of the state of São Paulo, has a peculiar idea of the human rights he’s been tapped to defend, with a bevy of homophobic and racist statements to his credit (including some that manage to entwine the two). He has publicly declared himself opposed to LGBT rights, tweeted derogatory statements about the continent of Africa as a bastion of “paganism, occultism, penury,” and attributed diseases there, from Ebola to AIDS to famine, to the “1st act of homosexualism in history.”
He similarly announced on Twitter that “Noah’s damnation over Canaan touches all its direct descendants, African people,” and that “the rot of homosexual feelings lead to hatred, crime and rejection.” In his two years in office, he has already proposed bills to repeal same-sex civil unions and to criminalize abortion even in cases of extreme fetal abnormality—two issues that the Supreme Court has already weighed in on. As a Pentecostal pastor, Feliciano has appeared at recent events like the “Last Time Missionary Gideons’ Congress,” where he spoke in tongues and denounced the Devil’s activities in Parliament to an audience of thousands, referring to LGBT advocacy.
The increasing popularity of Feliciano’s Social Christian Party reflects the growing political power of Pentecostals and evangelicals* in Brazil, such that they’ve begun to challenge the longstanding dominance of Catholics in the central government. Pentecostal churches have taken root across the country, especially in poorer areas, preaching a version of prosperity gospel and building their empire on the tithes of families benefiting from anti-poverty programs. The result has been a massive 61% spike in Brazil’s evangelical population from 2000 to 2010—a number now amounting to more than 43 million people, or 23% of the national population. Unsurprisingly, this new constituency is enjoying success in electing leaders to city halls, and state and federal parliaments.
Brazil’s new evangelicals have also begun to cooperate with American counterparts. In a recent article at Public Eye, I described how Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) met with Brazilian politicians, with the aid of Feliciano’s PSC, seeking support for the cause of a Christian pastor convicted of apostasy in Iran. The efficiency of Brazil’s evangelical political network so impressed the U.S. conservative group that the ACLJ decided to open a Brazilian branch: the Brazilian Center for Law and Justice (BCLJ). The new organization’s director of operations, Filipe Coelho, told me of the PSC’s ambitions to elect an evangelical president to Brazil who would govern in the name of Jesus Christ.
Brazil’s human rights community has become concerned at the growing insistence of evangelical leaders that the country should be governed according to “Christian values”—values that include homophobia, Islamophobia, and “traditional values” that demand women’s obedience to husbands, children’s submission to father figures, and individuals’ surrender to the Holy Spirit. Leaders like Feliciano seem to value these perspectives over constitutional principles—principles that were hard-won after the collapse of the military dictatorship less than three decades ago, and cultivated during the slow restoration of democracy ever since.
When Feliciano was nominated on March 6, a coalition of gays, lesbians, trans people, women, feminists, black people, and African-Brazilian religious leaders (including Christians) mounted a loud protest at the Commission, warning that Feliciano’s selection would represent a dangerous regression in human rights history. That day, the session was suspended without any decision, only to resume the next morning closed to the public (but live-streamed).
After five progressive representatives walked out in protest of the closed session, Feliciano was elected with 10 votes and one abstention. As he was inaugurated, the members who had voted him in made statements denouncing “Christophobia” and “gayzism” in Brazil, and Feliciano’s new vice president on the Commission triumphantly announced, “As evangelicals who don’t deny their evangelical identity to anyone, we’ll give here a clear demonstration on how to love your neighbor.”
Secularism in Brazil’s parliament may be an endangered concept, perhaps as the natural result of politicians courting evangelical influence in recent years. In the early 2000s, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, long condemned by evangelicals as “satanic” or “demonic,” sought and received influential pastors’ support in recasting that image, in exchange for giving them a seat at the table in steering national politics.
Brazil’s current president, Dilma Rousseff, who signed an agreement with evangelical leaders for support during her successful 2010 electoral campaign, repaid her debt in May of 2011 by vetoing educational materials that would have been used to undermine discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity within public schools, declaring such a measure LGBT “propaganda.” In an unusual step, other evangelical leaders have been granted diplomatic passports to represent Brazil’s interests abroad.
With the election of Feliciano, however, these trends will go from an indirect to a direct influence: pastors with a clear track record of homophobia, hostility to reproductive rights, and racial insensitivity are no longer applying pressure behind the scenes, but have assumed control of the very body meant to safeguard these very rights.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.