Texas Social Security Administration Judge Gary Suttles has filed a lawsuit against his superiors, whom he claims are creating a “religiously hostile environment” and violating his First Amendment rights.
What did they do? Did they demand he convert to Scientology? Did they, like so many Professor Kevin Sorbos, insist he declare that God is dead? Did they make him wear a yarmulke?
No. No, they did not. What they actually did is require him to watch an LGBT diversity training video that everyone else also has to watch in order to comply with a federal directive from President Obama on workplace diversity in the government sector.
The complaint alleges that “the agency has wholly failed to work in good faith to reasonably accommodate Judge Suttles’ sincerely held religious belief against watching” the video. The judge had previously requested that he be allowed to take a professional ethics course or “alternative diversity” seminar that didn’t include LGBT people as part of it’s program. Which would rather defeat the point of the initial video.
In fact, following the directive to watch the video in May, Judge Suttles engaged in a continuing correspondence with Monica Anderson, the hearing office’s chief administrative law judge, in hopes of getting out of it. Suttles was informed, however, that failure to do so could lead to disciplinary action.
One has to wonder what exactly Judge Suttles thinks is in this movie that is going to hurt him and violate his religious beliefs. Does he think it’s gay porn? Because I think he might think it’s gay porn. Has anyone told Judge Suttles that it is not gay porn?
They have! In fact, the complaint even notes that the video that scares Judge Suttles involves little more than a message from the agency commissioner and “a brief session on tips for increasing cultural awareness in a diverse and inclusive environment.” Whether Suttles believed the agency commissioner would be naked, dancing to Cher, and possibly reenacting a scene from The Boys in The Band during his message is anyone’s guess.
Oddly, Suttles is not the first SSA employee to freak out over this video. In September, David Hall of Champaign, Illinois, also refused to watch the video and said he would rather be fired than to sign a piece of paper saying he had completed diversity training.
We all have to watch things we’d rather not sometimes. If I sued every time I had to watch those science filmstrips that nearly sent me into a coma as a child, and was successful, I would totally own John F. Kennedy Elementary School. But just like it was my job as a student to sit there and doodle in my notebook while some Ben Stein impersonator explained the process of photosynthesis for approximately four days, it’s Suttles’ job to sit and watch the damn diversity video. It’s not advocacy of homosexuality. It’s a video that reminds people to treat others fairly while on the job, regardless of personal beliefs.
Quite frankly, people like Suttles are the reason these diversity videos are necessary to begin with — and if he can’t sit through 17 minutes of “Don’t be a jerk to LGBT people,” then maybe judging isn’t the best line of work for him.
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