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Nov 20 2012

Fundie Loses Discrimination Lawsuit

A federal court has granted summary judgment for the Colorado Department of Transportation in a lawsuit in which a fundamentalist Christian employee claimed harassment and discrimination based on nothing more than the fact that the agency accommodated the religious beliefs of Muslim employees. You can read the full ruling here.

The suit was really quite ridiculous. David Ross works for the Colorado DOT as an administrative assistant in the Staff Bridge Unit. As such, he organizes and coordinates department meetings, training sessions and the like. In 2010, he was part of a meeting that was planning an employee appreciation luncheon when someone noted that the proposed date was during Ramadan, which would prevent a Muslim employee from being able to attend. An alternative date was proposed, Ross’ boss approved it and the date was set.

And then Ross apparently threw quite a tantrum over it. It was his job to send out a notice to all department employees telling them when the luncheon would take place, but he refused to do that because the date was set to accommodate the Muslim holiday. His boss told him to send out the email, but Ross decided to single out the department’s one Muslim employee, telling everyone in the email, ““This event is being rescheduled to Monday, September 13, at the request of Ali, so he may participate.”

Ross then refused to attend the luncheon because it was “contrary to his religious beliefs.” The boss even accommodated that childish reaction, relieving him of his duties to coordinate and organize the event, but he wasn’t happy that Ross had decided to single out the employee and told him to send out another email indicating that the decision to change the date was made by the boss, Mike Leonard. The luncheon then went on, with Ross refusing to attend.

A few weeks later, another employee (who may be Muslim — the ruling isn’t clear, though this isn’t particularly important) sent an email to Ross asking him to forward an invitation to all department employees inviting them to gather in the break room for bagels and cream cheese “[o]n behalf of our fellow employees who are celebrating the
end of the Month of fasting (Ramadan).” Ross refused to do so, but Leonard had another employee send out the invitation.

The next week, Ross told Leonard that he thought the rescheduling of the luncheon was “seriously inappropriate” and that it violated the First Amendment by “establishing that Ramadan was the top religion in Staff Bridge” (Ramadan is not a religion, you dolt; Islam is the religion, Ramadan is one particular tradition within Islam). And he said that the invitation to the bagels and cream cheese informal meeting was “proselytizing” and “promoting Islam in the workplace.”

When a similar invitation went out the next year — not from the department officially, but just by a few employees inviting fellow employees to come to a conference room on their break to share some food — Ross again went ballistic, sending an email to Leonard’s boss asking:

Why is CDOT allowing these obviously deceptive workplace manipulations, in order to indoctrinate non-Muslims into the religious customs of Islam, during scheduled working hours, and tying up CDOT resources with false pretenses?

For crying out loud, as an atheist I would have no problem going to the break room and sharing a bagel and cream cheese with Muslim colleagues as they celebrate the end to the Ramadan period of fasting. Just like I would have no problem attending a company Christmas party. This is taking childish pettiness to a ridiculous extreme. But for Ross, the failure of his bosses to do his bidding and hold those evil Muslims down established a hostile work environment and constituted harassment and intimidation. Bryan Fischer would be proud of this; the only one creating a hostile work environment was Ross.

The court rejected those claims and granted summary judgment for the CDOT.

Moreover, and despite plaintiff’s characterization, there is no reasonable interpretation by which any of the actions of which he complains could be construed as “proselytizing,” that is, as efforts “to convert or attempt to convert . . .; [or] recruit” others to Islam.

Plaintiff did not attend either of the bagel breakfasts, and there is no other evidence suggesting that those events involved any form of proselytization. Nothing other than plaintiff’s own ipse dixit supports his otherwise unsubstantiated belief that the mere fact of inviting others to share food around the end of Ramadan constitutes an
attempt to “indoctrinate non-Muslims into the religious customs of Islam.”

I’m sure Ross now thinks the federal courts are in on the terrible persecution he is suffering. In reality, though, he’s just being a dick.

35 comments

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  1. 1
    matty1

    It is a little disappointing they only offered bagels and cream cheese. Many Muslim majority countries have great cuisine and introducing some of those dishes would have been cool as well as adding entertainment value by getting Mr Ross to complain about unchristian food smells.

  2. 2
    thalwen

    Yeah, because nothing says Evil Muslim Indoctrination like bagels and cream cheese.
    And how dare a workplace accommodate a person’s religion in a way that doesn’t have a substantial burden on the company! It’s almost as if they were following that demonic piece of Sharia law… the Constitution

  3. 3
    Didaktylos

    Besides – he was complaining about the wrong religion. Given that bagels were being served, wasn’t it Judaism that was being proselytised?

  4. 4
    Jasper of Maine

    Let’s compare this to the Bible banners at Kountze, Texas.

    The difference is that the Bible banners are an attempt to proselytize to everyone at the even, as a captive audience.

    In this case, it’s individuals having a private get-together, and the department trying being courteous to some employees in another case.. kind of like how they are courteous to Christians during christmas.

    Nativity scenes are a public endorsement. City council prayers are trying to hold everyone in attendance captive. Being courteous of religious beliefs and private get-together are not an entanglement between religion and government.

  5. 5
    Jasper of Maine

    I’m sure that we’ll get accused of giving Muslims a pass while persecuting Christians.

    No, it’s just that Christians apparently don’t know the law. They’re breaking the law, and for the most part, Muslims aren’t.

  6. 6
    cottonnero

    What lawyer went along with this?

  7. 7
    Gretchen

    Apparently, being kind to people is now considered discrimination against assholes.

  8. 8
    MikeMa

    Persecution delusion by the majority.

    Ross is a dick and whining baby. His god would be proud.

  9. 9
    DaveL

    I’m trying to imagine how this meeting actually went down. They had the date set, then somebody mentions “Hey, that’s during Ramadan. That means we’d be having an ‘employee appreciation luncheon’ where Ali wouldn’t be able to eat anything.”

    At which point Ross thinks to himself “Awesome, let’s do that!”

  10. 10
    Gregory in Seattle

    @matty1 #1 – Then again, it sounded like the event was not organized by Muslims, but by colleagues. Not to mention that there would be logistic issues in getting kebab, shawarma, gyro, couscous, falafel, hummus…. I’m sorry, you were saying?

  11. 11
    tulle

    Yep #3 when I see bagels and cream cheese, I think of the Jewish deli down the street.

  12. 12
    Gregory in Seattle

    So following his example, I suppose Ross would enthusiastically support a Muslim colleague who refused to send out an announcement for a Christmas party, or got upset when a luncheon was rescheduled to account for Holy Week, right?

    Oh, who am I kidding.

  13. 13
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    And do they have Xmas holidays at the CDOT office? And do they have Easter holidays at the CDOT office? If they’re banned, I can see this ipse dixit* having an argument, but I’d bet long odds that those religious celebrations are official holidays.

    Yes, he’s an ass.

    * – I’d never heard this phrase before and thought it might be (1) a typo, or (2) some kind of subtle insult (which I think it should be: “You little ipse dixit!”). Wiki says: ipse dixit is Latin for, “He, himself, said it”, meaning an unsubstantiated assertion, usually from an authority figure.

    Am I the only one here who didn’t know this?

  14. 14
    MikeMa

    @tulle,
    Without lox, I’m not sure:)

  15. 15
    anandine

    Actually, Ed, Ramadan isn’t an Islamic tradition; it is the name of a month in their calendar.

  16. 16
    Gregory in Seattle

    @anandine #15 – But the practice of fasting completely — no food or water — during the daylight hours of that month is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

  17. 17
    Who Knows?

    Yep #3 when I see bagels and cream cheese, I think of the Jewish deli down the street.

    Oh if only we had a good Jewish deli. What passes for a bagel and cream cheese around here are soft blobs of bread crudely shaped in a circle and some whipped fluffy crap with a slight cream cheese flavor.

    Fuck Paneras.

  18. 18
    Gretchen

    I quite enjoy soft blobs of bread crudely shaped in a circle (technically that describes every bagel, not just the lousy ones) and some whipped fluffy crap with a slight cream cheese flavor.

    It’s nice not being a gourmet.

  19. 19
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    @matty1:

    I certainly enjoy their cuisine.

  20. 20
    Gretchen

    Provided, of course, that the blob of bread is nicely toasted and the fluffy whipped crap isn’t piled terribly high. It’s a nuisance to have to spoon it off.

  21. 21
    iknklast

    It might have made some sense if it had in any way inconvenienced the employee, or made him recognize Ramadan. But this is just petty, especially since it’s a certain bet that CDOT was actually closed for Christmas…so atheists, Jews, and Muslims were all being forced to recognize the Christian holiday.

  22. 22
    Who Knows?

    It’s nice not being a gourmet.

    Today I learned enjoying a good bagel and cream cheese makes me a gourmand.

  23. 23
    Alareth

    As we all know, being inclusive is the very worst form of discrimination.

  24. 24
    Gretchen

    Oh, Who Knows, every gourmand thinks he or she just “enjoys a good _______.” :-)

  25. 25
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    @Alareth:

    Exactly! How dare you make me include people and not act as if I’m superior because I believe something different than they do!

  26. 26
    Who Knows?

    Yes, and today I shall enjoy some good Mexican cuisine at, Taco Bell.

  27. 27
    noastronomer

    @Gvlgeologist, FCD

    “Am I the only one here who didn’t know this?”

    No you weren’t. Thanks for looking it up.

  28. 28
    Gretchen

    I strongly suspect that few people would agree to the statement “Panera is the Taco Bell of bagels and cream cheese.”

    But maybe that’s just because I don’t know what a good bagel is.

  29. 29
    MarcusC

    A woman I work with brought in donuts yesterday. There was one of the sugar coated ones that I do quite like so I thanked her and enjoyed eating it.
    She is strongly christian. I didn’t realize I was being proselytized to by eating it. And there was me just worrying about eating junk food.

  30. 30
    anandine

    Gregory @15, yes, fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the pillars. Ramadan is the time period, not the event. It is December, not Christmas.

  31. 31
    Worldtraveller

    I hope Ross got fired on top of everything else, or is it not legal to fire someone for being a douchepickle and bringing a frivolous lawsuit against his employer?

  32. 32
    ButchKitties

    I thought we were ordering vegetarian options for office lunches so that everyone would have something to eat, but the majority of the vegetarians here are so for religious reasons. They’ve been converting me to Jainism/Hinduism, and I didn’t even know it.

  33. 33
    grumpyoldfart

    In 2010, he was part of a meeting that was planning an employee appreciation luncheon when someone noted that the proposed date was during Ramadan, which would prevent a Muslim employee from being able to attend.

    Ramadan wouldn’t have prevented him from attending the event – all he had to do was refuse the food when it was served.

  34. 34
    geocatherder

    @grumpyoldfart: being asked to a lunch where you can’t eat is just cruel. I hope you were being sarcastic.

    It was in the late ’90s, I think, when the company I was working for scheduled their (late) holiday party in the middle of Ramadan. I knew we had some Muslim employees, so I pointed this out to HR. Their response was “but nobody’s complained to us, so it can’t be a problem.” Thank goodness most organizations have come a bit further along than that by now.

  35. 35
    Worldtraveller

    Amusingly, when I lived in the midwest, I (one of a few atheists) was the one that made a bit of a stink about not having vegetarian and non-pork options at some of the company events. The muslims in the area I worked all knew I was an atheist, and I was the one standing up for them, since they were afraid to ask for themselves.

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