Public University's Punishment of Employee for Anti-Homosexuality E-Mail Set Aside:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

[Jihad Daniel, an employee of William Patterson University, a public school in New Jersey] privately replied to an unsolicited March 7 mass e-mail from Professor Arlene Holpp Scala promoting a viewing and discussion of a film described as “a lesbian relationship story.” Daniel’s March 8 e-mail to Professor Scala requested that he not be sent “any mail about ‘Connie and Sally’ and ‘Adam and Steve.’” Daniel went on, “These are perversions. The absence of God in higher education brings on confusion. That is why in these classes the Creator of the heavens and the earth is never mentioned.”

By June 15, Daniel had received a letter of reprimand in his permanent file saying that since the word “perversion” was “derogatory or demeaning,” he was guilty of violating state discrimination and harassment regulations. Daniel appealed to WPU President Arnold Speert, arguing that the First Amendment protected his speech, only to be told that such an argument was “beyond the scope” of the finding. . . .

Daniel contacted FIRE, which on July 5 wrote Speert in protest and reminded him that state college administrators “cannot simply choose to ignore the First Amendment when it becomes inconvenient.” New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey’s office responded to FIRE, absurdly asserting that “speech which violates a non-discrimination policy is not protected.” FIRE then took the case public, resulting in national condemnation of the university, while Daniel appealed the finding through a union grievance process.

On November 16, Daniel’s hearing took place with able representation from the Communication Workers of America Local 1031. Yesterday, Daniel received notification that the hearing officer had determined that the sexual harassment charge was “not supported” and that the letter would be removed from his personnel file. Moreover, the hearing officer clearly stated that Daniel’s one-time expression of a personal religious belief was not “harassment.” Daniel did receive a purely verbal reprimand for sending the e-mail while at work. . . .