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University official, demoted for signing marriage ballot petition, loses lawsuit

Catholic World News - April 22, 2014

A federal district court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Angela McCaskill, Gallaudet University’s former chief diversity officer, who was demoted after a colleague discovered she had signed a petition in favor of a Maryland marriage ballot initiative.

McCaskill said in her lawsuit against the university that she was “expressing herself as a married, heterosexual, African-American, Christian woman/voter, who, through prayer and worship, searched for a means to enlighten Maryland voters on the issue of same-sex marriage in such a way to foster discourse, tolerance, and respect for the democratic process,” the Washington Business Journal reported.

“Even if Gallaudet knew of her religious convictions or was aware that those convictions motivated her to sign the petition – a fact that remains hazy on the face of the complaint – there is no factual allegation that her religion somehow prompted her suspension or demotion,” ruled Judge James E. Boasberg, who was appointed to the bench by President Obama. “Although it may be true that McCaskill signed the petition because she is a Christian ... the university cannot be guilty of discrimination on that basis.”

“While a citizen has an unfettered right to petition her government, such a constitutional claim aimed at Gallaudet cannot succeed here, as the university and its employees are private parties not subject to the First Amendment’s strictures,” he added.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: filioque - Apr. 22, 2014 11:43 PM ET USA

    This decision restates what we already know: Constitutional restrictions on the government do not apply to private parties. The plaintiff didn't even show that her religion was relevant to the university's decision, so the court didn't actually have to reach the question of whether Constitutional rights were present and breached. Keep praying about the HHS-Obamacare contraception mandate cases; those are the real test of what private employers can be forced to do.

  • Posted by: loumiamo7154 - Apr. 22, 2014 6:28 PM ET USA

    Defender, the judge's ruling is that while the government has 1st amendment restrictions in favor of an individual or private entity, a private entity is not subject to those same restrictions. Therefore, a private entity like the Catholic Church CAN dismiss employess who violate their contracts or otherwise do harm to the Church, and the Church itself can decide that unilaterally. This decision is a BIG win for the Church.

  • Posted by: Defender - Apr. 22, 2014 12:54 PM ET USA

    "...the university and its employees are private parties not subject to the First Amendment’s strictures...” Does this even make sense?

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