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Dec 08 2011

Another Fake Religious Freedom Claim

The absurdly named Liberty Counsel, Jerry Falwell’s answer to the ACLU, is making yet another trumped up religious freedom claim on behalf of someone who thinks their religious beliefs gives them the authority to violate the rules of their job. Here’s the press release:

San Antonio, TX – A young woman was fired from a Macy’s department store for refusing to violate her religious beliefs by permitting a young man dressed as a woman from entering the women’s dressing room. Natalie Johnson claims she saw the young man walk out of the women’s fitting room and politely told him that he could not go back in because it was for women only. The cross-dressing young man claimed that he is a “female.” Johnson said that he was wearing make-up and girl’s clothing, but clearly he was a male. The cross-dresser was accompanied by five other individuals. The group argued with expletives that Macy’s is LGBT-friendly, to which Johnson replied that Macy’s is also non-discriminatory toward religion, and that it would go against her religious beliefs to lie that he was a woman or compromise with homosexuality. The group then demanded to speak with a manager.

When Johnson was confronted by her employer, she explained that she could not allow a male to change in a female’s fitting room. Johnson’s boss referred her to Macy’s LGBT policy which allows “transgender” people to change in any dressing room they want. However, Johnson pointed out that the same policy also protects against religious discrimination and, in this case, it protects her right to her beliefs that were being violated. The manager demanded that she comply with the LGBT policies or lose her job. Johnson refused to go against her sincerely held religious beliefs and was terminated from her job.

Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: “Macy’s policy which allows men to use the women’s dressing room is fraught with problems. This policy will cause significant problems and will alienate the majority of Macy’s customers. Macy’s has essentially opened women’s dressing rooms to every man. The LGBT agenda has become the theater of the absurd.”

All nonsense. No one is questioning whether she can hold those beliefs; she can. But that doesn’t mean she can enforce those beliefs on others in violation of the company’s policies.

40 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    Gender-separated dressing rooms are a silly idea anyway… The vast, vast majority of dressing rooms in department stores have locking doors. The only difference I’ve ever noted is location.

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    Yet another example of “You won’t let me be a bigoted a-hole, therefore you are violating my rights.”

  3. 3
    Erk12

    Macy’s has essentially opened women’s dressing rooms to every man.

    I’m sure there will now be a flood of men, who are not trans or normally cross-dressers, rushing to Macy’s in order to try on women’s clothes in the women’s dressing rooms.

  4. 4
    Tualha

    There are an awful lot of single-user restrooms with gender signs on them, too. People don’t even think about it. Got two restrooms? One for the men. One for the women. Always been that way. Always will be that way. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

  5. 5
    Tualha

    It kind of sounds like they’re trying to emulate civil disobedience tactics – taking a conscientious stand against rules they perceive as unjust – except that usually people engaged in civil disobedience movements have real grievances like Jim Crow laws or a war, while these people are basically fighting for the right to be a bigoted asshole and to make everyone in the US conform to conservative christian values.

  6. 6
    MikeMa

    Liberty Council and Matt Staver – wrong about everything and the track record to prove it.

    I’m predicting a brief bigot boycott of the local Macy’s and a rally of support in NY or SF. Anyone want to guess whos business Macy’s would rather court?

  7. 7
    Abby Normal

    Kudos to the kid and her friends for holding their ground. I imagine it must have been an uncomfortable situation. It would have been much easier to simply refuse to shop at Macy’s anymore. Well done kids.

    Imagine if the employee in question was working the register and refused to accept credit cards due to her religious beliefs about usery. Does anyone think that person should be allowed to keep their cashier job?

  8. 8
    Area Man

    “Macy’s policy which allows men to use the women’s dressing room is fraught with problems. This policy will cause significant problems and will alienate the majority of Macy’s customers.”

    It’s a good thing Matt Staver is around to tell Macy’s how to attract and keep customers. They’ve been doing such a crap job of it for the last 153 years.

  9. 9
    Margaret

    …while these people are basically fighting for the right to be a bigoted asshole and to make everyone in the US conform to conservative christian values.

    Yes, but everybody has the right to be a bigoted asshole. Nobody has the right to force others to comply with their bigoted ideas.

  10. 10
    Doug Little

    What the fuck is wrong with these people? They have to go out of their fucking way to make the lives of individuals who already have mountains of shit to get climb over even more difficult, what kind of Christian ideal is that, Jebus would be rolling in his grave, that is of course if he even existed.

  11. 11
    raven

    The religious beliefs defence seems to be a red herring.

    Where does it say in the bible that, “thou shalt not try on clothes in the women’s dressing room if thou be a male?”

    Nowhere that I can remember.

  12. 12
    ArtK

    @ raven

    Book of Adverbs, Chapter 3, Verse 17
    “Thou shalt not allow others to do things that thee find icky. To allow ickyness is an abomination before Me.”

    (You should read the chapter about girl-cooties. It’s a real winner.)

  13. 13
    Quodlibet

    I visited my daughter’s college campus a few nights ago for a threatrical production (excellent, btw). I was amused to see these signs on the doors of side by side restrooms:

    Restroom Equipped with Urinals

    Restroom Equipped with Sanitary Receptacles

    The signs made me smile. The simple signs just felt…welcoming and easy, even as they thumbed the proverbial nose at traditional gender norms.

    But on a practical basis, the signs informed people of what facilities lay behind the doors, so they could get to what they needed. That’s the only labels that were needed. The facilities were labeled, not the people who needed to use them. The restroom was clean and well lit, and honestly, that’s what mattered to me!

    The campus has a diverse body of students and faculty, with fluid understandings of gender and relationships. It’s what my daughter calls “chill.” People get along. They cherish their variety.

  14. 14
    MikeMa

    raven dahling, about that red herring – I bet you look fabulous in red!

  15. 15
    Doug Little

    Quodlibet,

    Yeah when I lived on campus many moons ago our facilities (showers and toilets) were gender neutral. No one had a problem with it, provided everybody respected the others boundaries, pissing on the seat was an obvious mixed bathroom faux pas, strange but I cannot remember if the seat up or seat down issue ever arose.

  16. 16
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Where does it say in the bible that, “thou shalt not try on clothes in the women’s dressing room if thou be a male?”

    Deuteronomy 22:5:

    The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

    Of course, that does leave open the question of whether a man can try on men’s clothing in a women’s dressing room without ticking Yahweh off. I don’t think the Mosaic law addresses that.

  17. 17
    Eamon Knight

    I’m always struck by how contrived these Christianists’ complaints are. There’s no Biblical rule or church dogma that mandates gender-separate facilities for changing, past (including Christian) societies have had laxer rules about bodily modesty; what we’ve got now is mostly a social convention. Trans people, by blurring the gender boundary, present a difficulty of application for that convention, but the store management has made a decision on how to handle it — and that should be the end of the question. The (ex-)employee is elevating an arbitrary local practice to a universal truth and manufacturing a religious requirement to interfere with other people’s doings out of nothing but her own gender squeamishness.

  18. 18
    Big Boppa

    In reply to Quodlibet @13

    Last week, in a little French cuisine restaurant in Chicago, I went to the back to use the facilities and discovered that they had two single use rooms, furnished identically, with unisex markings on the doors. For a second or two I was taken aback and couldn’t decide which one to use. It was odd to have a choice I guess.

  19. 19
    Eamon Knight

    @18: Unisex washrooms (ie. the single-stall kind you find in small-to-medium sized restaurants) are getting pretty common where I live (Ottawa, Canada).

  20. 20
    lofgren

    Restroom Equipped with Urinals, Restroom Equipped with Sanitary Receptacles

    I like it. On the other hand, a lot of women feel very uncomfortable changing or going to the bathroom with men present, and I can’t really blame them. Can you imagine sharing a bathroom or a changing room with those assholes who feel like it’s acceptable to harass women on the street because of what they are wearing (or really, regardless of what they are wearing)? Sure, you can say “If somebody harasses somebody, then deal with the harasser directly.” Except that a lot of harassment will go unreported, finding a person to report the harassment to can be difficult or time consuming, and some women will be uncomfortable or fearful of harassment due to past experiences if men are allowed into the places where they feel most vulnerable. Even leering can be enough to make somebody feel afraid for their own safety, and reasonably so. I’m sure some men have similar concerns but obviously there is less precedent to justify that.

    When it comes to feelings of safety and comfort, people don’t really have control over such things. A person who supports LGBT rights in all other situations might still feel awkward sharing a bathroom or changing room with one of those people. Even if they don’t want to. You can’t reason your way out of an emotion that visceral. I don’t think I could blame a business for choosing either policy for the comfort of its patrons. But I know which I would prefer to frequent.

  21. 21
    raven

    The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

    Yeah, I remember that one.

    But that isn’t quite the issue here. This cross dressing male is obviously an “abomination unto the LORD” as far as some xians are concerned. But that is between him and the LORD and none of her business.

    If she wants to play god, she is out of luck.

    Somewhere else in there is a few verses about not wearing clothing made of mixed fibers. I’m sure Macy’s sells huge amounts of mixed fiber clothing. I’m also sure this woman probably has no problem selling or wearing such.

    As usual they cherry pick from the bible what they want and ignore the rest.

  22. 22
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @lofgren:

    I dunno about you, but the only thing I want to do in a public restroom is pee and get out. (After washing my hands of course)

  23. 23
    fifthdentist

    “Somebody help him. He spoke French!” — Steve Martin, in long ago standup bit.

  24. 24
    lofgren

    I dunno about you, but the only thing I want to do in a public restroom is pee and get out.

    OooK… I need to know this why?

  25. 25
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    Man, the last time I was in a Macy’s they were a whole lot more relaxed about this sort of thing. That is, we didn’t get kicked out of the dressing rooms until they realized that we weren’t changing clothes – we just needed a convenient place to take them off, and were a bit too noisy about it.
    I suppose there’s probably a policy about that too.

    I’ve had several workplaces with unisex bathrooms. There were no incidents of leering or harassment that I know of, but of course that’s completely anecdotal. Is there any data, I wonder, about whether sexual assault occurs more or less frequently in unisex bathrooms than in gendered bathrooms? I did some googling but couldn’t find anything.

  26. 26
    Dr X

    And in the warped Christianist mind, the person denied use of the dressing room is the persecutor and the person who attempted to deny use is the victim. It was that way with the white “victims” of desegregation who were forced to let black people who paid their fare sit in any available seat on the bus.

  27. 27
    Modusoperandi

    Abby Normal “Imagine if the employee in question was working the register and refused to accept credit cards due to her religious beliefs about usery. Does anyone think that person should be allowed to keep their cashier job?”
    Everybody knows that Jesus abolished the old ceremonial and dietary laws, but not the moral ones. Usury is, um, ceremonial. What part of “And He said ‘And thou shall take a cut for yourself. And the cut shall be bigger if you can get away with it, for the Invisible Hand of the Free Market shall guide you.’” did you not understand? Did you learn nothing from the story of Him tipping over the tables at the temple?

    lofgren “OooK… I need to know this why?”
    Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort is explaining her habit of bursting in to the bathroom, peeing on the floor, then rushing out. And you just thought she was a crazy person!

  28. 28
    lofgren

    In fairness, she apparently also washes her hands.

  29. 29
    Modusoperandi

    lofgren, obviously. She’s not an animal.

  30. 30
    Aquaria

    Glad this is getting picked up on. I posted about it yesterday in one of the other threads.

    “Macy’s policy which allows men to use the women’s dressing room is fraught with problems. This policy will cause significant problems and will alienate the majority of Macy’s customers.”

    Oh for fucks’ sake! We don’t care if men and women use side by side bathrooms, or even side-by-side dressing rooms in small stores. Why would we care if they use side-by-side stalls in a large store’s dressing area?

    Sheesh. People are way too convinced that they’re worth looking at undressed.

  31. 31
    Aquaria

    Man, the last time I was in a Macy’s they were a whole lot more relaxed about this sort of thing. That is, we didn’t get kicked out of the dressing rooms until they realized that we weren’t changing clothes – we just needed a convenient place to take them off, and were a bit too noisy about it.

    Ha! I was working at a Macy’s like store for a while in Tyler. One of our dressing rooms was in a very quiet area of the store, and thus very popular with, uh, love birds.

    We weren’t simply being polite by leaving a box of Kleenex in each stall.

  32. 32
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    Sheesh. People are way too convinced that they’re worth looking at undressed.

    And way too convinced that being looked at while undressed will somehow harm them.

  33. 33
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    I don’t mean to imply that a person can’t feel violated by some asshole leering at hir. It’s just… come on. You’re already inside a stall with a locking door!

  34. 34
    Aquaria

    I don’t mean to imply that a person can’t feel violated by some asshole leering at hir. It’s just… come on. You’re already inside a stall with a locking door!

    I don’t, either, but the chances that you’ll get perved by someone in a dressing room is vanishingly small. When thinking back on my retail career, the only time I recall someone getting hauled away for that, it was an employee, not a customer, who had been ogling customers. Male customers, no less!

    The biggest problem I had in the 70s and 80s with dressing rooms was women doing cocaine in them. The menswear side of the house didn’t have that problem, or not like we did on the women’s side.

  35. 35
    eric

    Macy’s has essentially opened women’s dressing rooms to every man.

    I’ve been going clothes shopping with various women relations and SOs for 20+ years. And all of them end up asking me to stay close, hold the bags, and tell them how they look in outfits A, B, and C.

    I have no idea what rock these fundies live under, but there have been and always will be men around women’s changing rooms…but its not us who put us there. Ogling? You must be joking. That strange look on our faces is more likely to be “somebody kill me now” than “oohhh, did I see an extra cm of cleavage?”

  36. 36
    Modusoperandi

    Aquaria “We weren’t simply being polite by leaving a box of Kleenex in each stall.”
    Ah hah! I knew I wasn’t the only one who cried after sex!(*1)

    *1. Sometimes, during.(*2)
    *2. And, ladies, I’m available.

  37. 37
    Pinky

    “Yahweh made man in its image,”

    That Yahweh must have been some nasty looking dude for humans to be that repulsed by his image in each of us.

    I suspect Yahweh was Cthulhu in drag. People, I’d hate to tell you how the world really ends.

  38. 38
    csrster

    But you gotta admit it says it right there in Paul’s Epistle to the Macedonians “Thou shalt not allow a transgender person into a changing room of the opposite sex”. It’s very specific.

  39. 39
    frog

    Whenever I travel overseas (I’m American)–and by “overseas” I also mean “Canada” and “fancy New York establishments”–I’m always struck by how much more civilized their bathroom arrangements are.

    America is the land of the peekaboo bathroom stall. All the doors have giant gaps around them, there’s a huge opening at the bottom, and often the top of the door doesn’t go very high.

    Also, there seems to be a requirement that handicapped-accessible bathrooms have the toilet dead center in front of the biggest gap. I can sit there and watch the world go by as I do my business.

    Contrast with other parts of the world where the bathroom stalls are floor-to-ceiling with real doors that fit snugly into their jambs.

    I shop rather less often than I pee, so I don’t know if this same distinction holds in dressing rooms, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  40. 40
    democommie

    Quodlibet:

    “The campus has a diverse body of students and faculty, with an understanding of gender and relationship fluidics.”.

    A small change–but, THAT’s a bumper sticker!

    Eamon Knight:

    “The (ex-)employee is elevating an arbitrary local practice to a universal truth and manufacturing a religious requirement to interfere with other people’s doings out of nothing but her own need to be an attention whore.”

    Let’s face it, 99%–and that’s a conservative estimate–of these KKKristianist fuckwads are people who need to be vindictive towards the rest of humanity because their own lives are teh SUCK and they want the rest of us to feel their pain.

    The local Walmart has changing rooms in the center of the 4 or 5 different clothing areas. An attendant counts the number of garments you’re carrying, gives you a ginormous plastic tag with the number of garments on it, unlocks the door to a changing room and walks away. Walmart–I wonder if the fundies know about that?

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