Friday, March 25, 2016

University's Limits on Religious Speech Create 1st Amendment Concerns

In Faulkner v. University of Cincinnati(SD OH, March 23, 2016), an Ohio federal district court refused to dismiss a suit against the University of Cincinnati by one of its former lower level administrators, Mark Faulkner, who was sent a "corrective action" letter from the University's Office of Equal Opportunity and Access.  The letter was issued after he made references to Jesus and Biblical teachings in a lecture on "servant leadership" that he was asked to deliver at a leadership training course.  In the letter, Faulkner was told that he  "should refrain from using biblical quotations during presentations and work related interactions." The court said in part:
The University’s asserted interest in avoiding an employee’s discomfort at hearing biblical references (or in another context, hearing references to Buddhist teachings or the Quran, or the principles of atheism) simply and plainly do not outweigh Faulkner’s interests in free speech and in the free exercise of his religious principles.
The court also refused to dismiss a vagueness and overbreadth challenge to the University's Discriminatory Harassment Policy.