Court Upholds Religious Gay Bashing Dismissal

January 7, 2004 ( - Firing Christian employees for posting anti-homosexual Bible quotes in their cubicle is not a violation of the employee's rights.

>The US 9 th CircuitCourt of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling finding Hewlett-Packard Co. did not discriminate against Richard Peterson when the former employee was terminated after posting the Biblical quotes criticizing homosexuality in response to company posters featuring gay employees.   Writing for the majority, Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt said Peterson had failed to provide evidence he was fired due to his religious beliefs, according to a Reuters report.

>Peterson posted the Leviticus 20:13 quote, which reads “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them,” in response to a concerted effort by Hewlett-Packard to promote a more diverse work force.   Part of the “Diversity is Our Strength” campaign’s propaganda showed pictures of gay men and women and Peterson conceded he posted the quote to be harmful.  

>The Palo Alto, California-based company maintained Peterson was fired for insubordination after he refused to remove the Bible quotes, which managers at the Boise, Idaho office feared would be viewed as offensive.   Reinhardt agreed with Hewlett-Packard’s argument saying Hewlett-Packard would have faced an “undue hardship” to accommodate Peterson’s demands that he be allowed to post scriptures in response to the posters, or that he remove his postings in exchange for the company taking down its posters promoting diversity.

Either option would have also hurt the company’s efforts to “attract and retain a qualified, diverse work force, which the company reasonably views as vital to its commercial success,” Reinhardt wrote.

“While Hewlett-Packard must tolerate some degree of employee discomfort in the process of taking steps required by Title VII to correct the wrongs of discrimination, it need not accept the burdens that would result from allowing actions that demean or degrade, or are designed to demean or degrade, members of its workforce,” said Reinhardt, who was joined by Judges William Fletcher and Ronald Gould in the opinion.

Peterson’s attorney said his client plans on filing a petition for review by the US Supreme Court.   “Basically what the court is saying is that the Bible passages themselves can be hurtful and offensive and therefore can be excluded from freedom of expression in the workplace,” attorney Christ Troupis told Reuters.

The case is Peterson v Hewlett-Packard .