Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bible Quotes In University VP's Presentation To Employees Not Protected By First Amendment

Faulkner v. University of Cincinnati, (SD OH, March 23, 2015), involves a challenge by an Associate Vice President in the University's Department of Internet Technology to disciplinary action taken against him for his use of Biblical quotations in a departmental presentation designed to improve leadership skills of participants. An Ohio federal district court dismissed the major part of plaintiff's claim, but permitted him to move ahead on one portion of his complaint.  The court explained:
The Court concludes that Faulkner was not speaking as a private citizen on a matter of public concern when he gave his presentation to the IT Leadership Academy. Therefore, that speech was not protected by the First Amendment, and he cannot challenge the "discipline" that resulted - his attendance at a "sensitivity" seminar. But this conclusion does not require the dismissal of the entirety of his First Amendment claims. Faulkner is also challenging the University's prohibition on making any biblical quotations in "future lectures or in work related interactions." This broadly worded ban could apply to consensual conversations with colleagues, to religious symbolic speech, and to "interactions" of all sorts that might occur outside of the classroom or officially sanctioned University-sponsored groups.