Daily Dispatches
Crystal Dixon
Courtesy photo
Crystal Dixon

Midday Roundup: Religious liberty defense logs one win, five losses

Newsworthy

Stifled speech. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week let stand a lower court’s decision supporting a university’s right to fire a human resources manager over her views about homosexuality. Last year, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the University of Toledo in its decision to fire administrator Crystal Dixon after she penned an op-ed in the Toledo Free Press outlining her beliefs about how gay rights differed from civil rights: “I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are ‘civil rights victims.’ Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman.” University President Lloyd Jacobs said Dixon’s public expression of her beliefs called into question her ability to do her job. The lower courts agreed, dismissing Dixon’s claims the school violated her right to free speech. Although the Supreme Court’s decision not to take the case cannot be counted as an endorsement of the lower court’s ruling, it does mean that within the 6th Circuit’s jurisdiction, Christians like Dixon can’t count on constitutional protections for proclaiming their beliefs.

Marriage ultimatum. A New Jersey judge on Thursday refused Gov. Chris Christie’s request to postpone her demand that the state start issuing same-sex marriage licenses. New Jersey currently allows gay couples to enter civil unions but not marriages. Christie maintains the voters should decide the issue in a referendum. But Judge Mary Jacobson ordered the state to start issuing marriage licenses on Oct. 21, based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this year. Christie’s administration is challenging her decision. Jacobson has refused to stay the ruling while higher courts debate its legality.

Non-discrimination? An Iowa couple facing a discrimination complaint for refusing to host a same-sex wedding ceremony in their event center is suing the state’s Civil Rights Commission over its attempt to force them to open their doors to gay couples. Dick and Betty Odgaard run The Görtz Haus Gallery in Grimes, Iowa, and are faithful Mennonites. Although they have gay employees, family members, and friends, and are willing to rent their converted church facility to gay couples for receptions, they draw the line at providing space for wedding ceremonies. The couple who filed the complaint against them say the business is a public venue that must allow couples to use it regardless of their sexual orientation or the business owners’ beliefs.

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Costly loss. An Ohio school district that once allowed the display of a portrait of Jesus in a middle school has agreed to pay $95,000 in legal fees to groups that sued to have the painting removed. Administrators at the Jackson City School District at first said they would not remove the painting, which hung in its spot in the school’s foyer for 66 years. After moving the painting to a hallway and offering to hang other religious or irreligious art nearby, the school finally gave in to claims it was endorsing religion. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom from Religion Foundation will split $80,000 in court costs, and five plaintiffs who filed suit will get $3,000 each.

Sidelining Bibles. Gideons International, the group known for distributing Bibles all around the world, is fighting a new policy at a Michigan community college that’s keeping them from talking to students on campus. Two years ago, the Kalamazoo Gideons passed out 3,000 New Testaments to students at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Last year, they distributed 1,200. But then school administrators adopted a new policy that restricted non-student groups’ access to campus. As in similar instances at other colleges, the groups must stay in an approved area in a remote part of campus, away from staff and students. The Gideons have a lawyer, and based on prior legal precedent have a good chance of winning their case.

One victory. Despite all the blows to religious liberty in recent weeks, one appeals court handed out a victory last month to a man who tried to hand out Bibles at the Twin Cities (Gay) Pride Festival in Minnesota. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said city officials and festival organizers had no right to restrict Christians to the festival’s outskirts while allowing other street performers and vendors to roam through the crowd unhindered.

Leigh Jones
Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Atlanta and is the managing editor of WORLD's website.

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