On December 31, AFLC Senior Counsel Robert Muise filed a petition for an en banc – or full court – rehearing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on behalf of Crystal Dixon, a former human resources administrator at the University of Toledo who was fired in 2008 for expressing her personal, Christian viewpoint on homosexuality in an op-ed published in the local newspaper. On December 17, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit dismissed Dixon’s case and sided with the lower court, which ruled that the University’s “diversity” interests trumped Dixon’s First Amendment rights.
On April 3, 2008, Dixon read an opinion piece published in the Toledo Free Press that equated the “gay rights” movement with the civil rights struggles of African-Americans. Dixon, an African-American and practicing Christian, disagreed with this comparison and subsequently submitted her own opinion piece to express her personal viewpoint. Dixon’s opinion piece, published on April 18, 2008 in the newspaper’s online edition, stated, in relevant part, “I respectfully submit a different perspective for [the author of the original op-ed] and Toledo Free Press readers to consider . . . . I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are civil rights victims.” Dixon signed her opinion piece as “Crystal Dixon.”
On May 12, 2008, Dixon received a letter from University President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, which stated that effective immediately her employment at the University was terminated because of “the public position you have taken in the Toledo Free Press.” As a result, Dixon filed a federal lawsuit, alleging violations of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
As Muise wrote in AFLC’s petition filed today with the Sixth Circuit:
Crystal Dixon was fired from her employment as Associate Vice President for Human Resources with the University of Toledo because she expressed her personal, Christian views as a private citizen in an opinion piece published in the Toledo Free Press. Plaintiff did not occupy a political position nor did she publicly criticize any identified policy of her employer in her writing. Rather, Plaintiff was fired for expressing her personal religious beliefs in a local newspaper on a very controversial issue: gay rights.
As the U.S. Supreme Court has long stated, "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion." West Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943) (emphasis added). In this case, that "fixed star" in our constitutional constellation has been obscured and an official orthodoxy prescribed in violation of the First Amendment.