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Christian Liberties Threatened -- First Amendment Case Argued Before Ninth Circuit Court Thursday

Contact: Richard D. Ackerman, Ackerman, Cowles & Lindsley, 951-308-6454


TEMECULA, Calif., Feb. 14 /Standard Newswire/ -- On Thursday morning, in a special session being held at the Stanford University Law School campus a critical First Amendment case is being argued before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The case deals squarely with the issue of whether Christians have a right to use neutral language in the workplace to talk about same-sex marriage and other issues at the forefront of national debate.


Attorneys Scott Lively and Richard D. Ackerman will be arguing the case before the Ninth Circuit on behalf of an African-American Christian woman who was threatened with termination at her job with the City of Oakland.  The City of Oakland claims that references to the "natural family, marriage and family values" constitute hate speech which is scary to city workers.  The Ninth Circuit panel of judges includes two women and one man.


Back in February of 2005, United States District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the city of Oakland had a right to bar two employees from posting a Good News Employee Association flier promoting traditional family values on an office bulletin board.  According to the lawsuit, gay and lesbian city workers had already been using the city's e-mail, bulletin board, and written communications systems for promoting their views to other workers, including the plaintiffs.


Plaintiffs, Regina Rederford and Robin Christy posted the flier in response to an e-mail to city employees announcing formation of a gay and lesbian employee association. The two responded with a promotion of their own -- the start of an informal group that respects "the natural family, marriage and family values."


But supervisors Robert Bobb, then city manager, and Joyce Hicks, then deputy director of the Community and Economic Development Agency, ordered removal of the flier, stating it contained "statements of a homophobic nature" and promoted "sexual-orientation-based harassment," even though it made no absolutely no mention of homosexuality.


A July 2003 lawsuit by Rederford and Christy claimed the city's anti-discrimination policy "promotes homosexuality" and "openly denounces Christian values."


U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker dismissed the case in February 2005, ruling the two women did not have their First Amendment rights violated and that federal anti-discrimination protections afforded to gender, race, and religion did not apply to the women plaintiffs.


City Attorney John Russo said in a previous statement the city "will fight vigorously to defend the policies and practices which protect employees from any form of discrimination." Attorneys for the plaintiffs say they fails to see how it is that mere references to "the natural family, marriage and family values" can amount to discrimination when such words could have just as easily been used by same-sex marriage advocates in describing related issues.


Messrs. Lively and Ackerman said the case is significant, because a decision against the employees could silence debate about homosexuality and related issues in the entire Western United States since the Ninth Circuit controls a large region of the United States and its rulings are binding on millions of employees whose speech is subject to punishment by employers who promote agendas that defy Judeo-Christian values.


The flier in question was posted Jan. 3, 2003, on an employee bulletin board where a variety of political and sexually oriented causes are promoted. Titled, "Preserve Our Workplace with Integrity," the entire text said:


Good News Employee Associations is a forum for people of Faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of the day. With respect for the Natural Family, Marriage and Family values.


If you would like to be a part of preserving integrity in the Workplace call Regina Rederford @xxx-xxxx or Robin Christy @xxx-xxxx


The flyer was removed the same day, however, by order of Hicks.


In a memo announcing a newly revised workplace anti-discrimination policy, Hicks noted recent incidents of employees "inappropriately posting materials" in violation of that policy. At the time she noted, "Specifically, flyers were placed in public view which contained statements of a homophobic nature and were determined to promote sexual orientation-based harassment."


Attorney Richard Ackerman says, "This case has the potential to make a horrible judicial edict that suggests that the only thoughts and words allowed in a public workplace are those that support the homosexual agenda.  The city of Oakland has interpreted this district court's ruling to mean that Christianity has no place in our society and should be subject to punishment.  I want to believe that our Supreme Court will ultimately decide this case on the values and instructions set forth in motion by the nations Founders."


Richard Ackerman, whose public-interest law firm Ackerman, Cowles & Lindsley represents the two women, said this case has drained significant financial and time resources because of the fight put up by the City of Oakland in defending its aggressive censorship of the plaintiffs.  The Pro-Family Law Center has been funding the case from donations made by Christians and others for the defense of the First Amendment and family values.  According to Ackerman, protecting the most basic rights of Rederford has cost thousands of dollars to litigate.  Abiding Truth Ministries, also founded by Scott Lively has assisted in underwriting the costs on appeal.