Guess which topic posted on the Washington Post’s “Morning Mix” blog got 2,000 responses within 20 hours?
Yep, it was about a government official who balked at having to watch an “LGBT diversity and inclusivity training” video at his workplace, who’s planning on losing his job over it and who has asked his fellow Christians to join him.
Anyone who’s applied for any job recently –- particularly in academia -- finds oneself having to check certain boxes. I’ve also had to include a statement pledging my troth to diversity, plus give examples the Muslim family I helped sponsor back in the 1990s and the Native American students I encountered or taught at the University of Alaska. However, one gets the feeling that this is not the button that they're asking you to push.
Anyway, one guy in Illinois decided he’d had enough. Here’s how the News-Gazette, the local paper, played it:
CHAMPAIGN -- A Social Security Administration employee who believes he shouldn't have to watch a workplace diversity video about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, because it violates his religious beliefs, fears he may lose his job because of it.
David Hall, 42, of Tolono has worked for the federal agency for 14 years, based in the Champaign office as an area systems coordinator, an information technology position. In late April, Hall said, employees nationwide received an email from the agency about a 17-minute LGBT diversity and inclusion training video that they were told to watch at their work stations. Employees were required to certify that they had seen the video.
Hall said he is a Christian -- "not anti-anyone or anything," but "for God, for Jesus" -- and believes the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin.
So, he didn't watch it.
A quick question: Was he arguing that homosexual orientation alone is sin, or that gay sexual acts are sinful? Many traditional Christians, Jews, Muslims and others -- but not all -- make a distinction there. It might have been worth a question to Hall, because that would have yielded some insights into his church and background.
Back to the video.
His supervisor gave him direct orders to do so -- first on June 2, then again on June 24. Again, Hall refused both times.
As a result, an official reprimand was placed in his file -- the first he has ever received, he says -- and he was suspended without pay for two days, Aug. 15-16.
Then the Gazette-News team throws in an interesting tidbit:
Part of his problem, he said, is that viewing the video is mandatory, something he doesn't remember the agency doing with other training videos in the past. So, he asked his supervisors for a religious accommodation to abstain from the training, which was denied.
After his suspension, Hall returned to work on Aug. 17. He said his supervisor has explained he will receive further discipline, possibly a longer suspension without pay, if he does not complete the video. Hall said he eventually expects he will lose his job over his refusal to do so.
One glaring omission is what kind of Christian this man is. Does he attend a local church? Which one? What does his pastor say about this?
The Washington Post pretty much rewrote (and jazzed up) what the Gazette-News and WCIA (a local TV station) had, interspersed with links to other pieces. I found it interesting to read the material to which some of those linked pointed.
One was: [I’m an evangelical minister. I now support the LGBT community — and the church should, too.]
The next was: [Pope Francis calls for inclusion of gays in society, saying he has no right to ‘judge’]
This gives a whole new meaning to framing the debate.
The New Republic had a clever, albeit predictable lead:
Illinois has its own Kim Davis. (Not that it needed one.)
David Hall, federal employee, is suing the U.S. government because it had the audacity to require diversity training in the workplace. Hall claims that the government violated his religious freedom rights by assigning the training, which consisted of watching a short video on the LGBT community.
This sure brings up some interesting legal questions. Unlike Kim Davis, there are not specific job duties that Hall is refusing to do. He just does not want to sit through this particular piece of mandatory sensitivity training, which is why the government may find it harder to force him out.
Also, what if he was a member of a non-evangelical Protestant group: Amish, an Orthodox Jew, a Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh-day Adventist or a Muslim? Would he get 2,000 angry comments lobbed at him courtesy of a national newspaper like the Post?
WCIA’s transcript raised some additional valid points including a back-and-forth between Hall and a local gay-rights organizer:
Hall works in this office as an IT guy of sorts, so he doesn't deal directly with social security patrons. But after refusing to watch the video, he says he was still reprimanded for insubordination, then suspended for two days without pay. He says he requested a religions accommodation, but that was denied.
"My complaint is more with the fact that it was mandatory. We have never done that for another particular class of people. This is the only group of individuals that we've done it for. We haven't done it for veterans, the disabled, blacks, Hispanics, or anything else."
"Well my response to him would probably be quite a lengthy lecture on the historical implications of being queer and accessing social services," says Stephanie Skora.
Skora is the president of Champaign County's UP Center, an LGBT social services agency. She says she's surprised a training video is behind this.
"At first glance I was confused and thought he thought that there was depiction of gay activity in the video or something," says Skora.
"I would argue that it's not a training video," says Hall, "It's promoting an agenda and a lifestyle that I simply don't agree with."
"How do you know that if you haven't watched it?" asked Aaron Eades.
Hall replied, "How do YOU know that it's not, that it's prompting awareness? I don't need to certify to be culturally aware. What am I being aware of? It's not a training video. I treat a human being the same way I would want to be treated."
WCIA’s treatment gave a fair voice to both sides.
This issue isn’t going away, so I’m hoping (against hope, sadly) that other media will likewise try to accurately explain Hall’s beliefs. And let’s hope someone gets a hold of the actual video to tell us what it truly says.