Thursday, July 21, 2005

Christians Losing Jobs

By Alexander Samuels

We don't often think about Christians being persecuted or discriminated against in the workplace, but the experience is all too real for many people. An article posted yesterday by The American Enterprise Online ("Christians Need Not Apply," by Patrick J. Ashby) cites several examples.

Let's take the case of . . . James Patterson. He had been an editorial writer for The Indianapolis Star for over 16 years when he was fired for expressing his beliefs. In 2003, The Star was purchased by Gannett, which owns USA Today, and Dennis Ryerson was named the paper's new executive editor.

After Patterson wrote an editorial in which he encouraged his readers to "pray for the safety of our soldiers," Ryerson gave Patterson a low performance rating and required him to get pre-approval for future editorials. Eventually, Patterson was fired. Please note that Patterson did not ask people to pray to a particular god or in a specific manner.

Another editorial writer, Lisa Coffey, who worked for The Star was demoted to the copy desk after Ryerson refused to run a series she had written on the dangers of sodomy. Coffey resigned after an argument with Ryerson over Christianity. Patterson and Coffey filed a lawsuit in June against The Star for religious discrimination.

Albert Buonanno was an employee at AT&T. In 2001, he was fired for refusing to sign a certificate that stated he would "respect and value the differences among all of us." Buonanno believed, because of his Christian faith, that he could not respect or value homosexuality. He sued AT&T and won. The judge decided that AT&T should have respected Buonanno's beliefs in accordance with the Civil Rights Act.

Phil Mitchell, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, may not be invited back to teach next fall after 20 years. An evangelical Christian, he was named "Teacher of the Year" in 1998. It seems his colleagues on the university staff have objected to his required reading of Charles Sheldon's In His Steps (1897). Professor Mitchell's reasoning for assigning the book is that it reveals "Protestant liberal values at the turn of the century."

Patrick Cubbage, an honor guard at a New Jersey veterans cemetery, was fired for saying "God bless you and your family" to a widow when he handed her the folded U.S. flag. State officials ordered Cubbage reinstated but he had to reapply as a rookie and promise not to offer blessings at the ceremonies again.

Christians should beware of employers who tend to overreact negatively to any expression of our faith. Anti-Christian liberals have made an impact in convincing the public that all expressions of free speech that may be linked to Christianity are offensive. As a matter of fact, many Christians have come to wrongly believe they should not use the language of their religion at all in the secular world.


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