Ninth Circuit Declares Right of Government to Censor the Terms ‘Natural Family,’ ‘Marriage’ and ‘Family Values’

Contact: Richard D. Ackerman, Pro-Family Law Center, 951-308-6454, 951-258-5456

TEMECULA, Calif. Mar. 7 /Christian Newswire/ — Earlier this week, San Francisco’s
United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the matter of Good News
Employees Association v. Hicks that the municipal employers can completely censor
the terms "natural family," "marriage" and "family values"
as hate speech. The unpublished "memorandum" by the Court can be found

The court concluded that municipalities have a right to literally dictate what
form an employee’s speech may take, even if it is in regard to controversial
public issues. Shockingly, the court concluded that the interest of Christian
employees in speaking out on the issue of marriage is "vanishingly small"
and that the "administrative" interests of a city are more important
than speech rights. The court completely failed to address the concerns of the
appellants with respect to the fact that the City of Oakland’s Gay-Straight
Employees Alliance was openly allowed to attack the Bible in widespread city
e-mails, to deride Christian values as antiquated, and to refer to Bible-believing
Christians as hateful. When the plaintiffs attempted to refute this blatant
attack on people of faith, they were threatened with immediate termination by
the City of Oakland. The Ninth Circuit did not feel that the threat of immediate
termination had any effect on free speech.

The Pro-Family Law Center vows to immediately take this ruling up to the United
States Supreme Court on a petition for review.

Last month, attorneys Scott Lively and Richard D. Ackerman argued the case
on behalf of an African-American Christian woman who was threatened with termination
at her job with the City of Oakland. The City of Oakland claimed that references
to the "natural family, marriage and family values" constituted hate
speech which is scary to city workers. Mr. Lively argued that the terms "marriage,"
"family values" and "natural family" could just have easily
been used by gay activists in expressing their opinions on the issue of same-sex
marriage. Mr. Ackerman argued that the Pro-Family Law Center’s clients were
entitled to the exact same free speech rights as those who had openly attacked
the Bible through the city’s lines of communication with full approval of high
ranking officials.

The Ninth Circuit panel of judges included Judges Fletcher, Clifton, and Ikuta.
Without citing a specific author for the memorandum of decision, the Court wrote,
"the district court correctly held that [the City of Oakland] had a more
substantial interest in maintaining the efficient operation of their office
than appellants had in their speech, appellants cannot establish a viable free
speech claim."

Back in February of 2005, United States District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled
the city of Oakland had a right to bar two employees from posting a Good News
Employee Association flier promoting traditional family values on an office
bulletin board. According to the lawsuit, gay and lesbian city workers had already
been using the city’s e-mail, bulletin board, and written communications systems
for promoting their views to other workers, including the plaintiffs.

In fact, the e-mail system was even used by a high-ranking official of the
City of Oakland to declare that the Bible "needs updating" and other
insulting comments were lobbed at the plaintiffs by city employees and officials.
No action was taken against those responsible for the public attack on the Bible
and Christians working for the city.

Plaintiffs, Regina Rederford and Robin Christy posted the flier in response
to an e-mail to city employees announcing formation of a gay and lesbian employee
association and other communications. The two Christians responded with a promotion
of their own — the start of an informal group that respects "the natural
family, marriage and family values."

But supervisors Robert Bobb (now in charge of the Washington DC school district)
and Joyce Hicks, (deputy director of the Oakland Community and Economic Development
Agency) ordered removal of the flier, stating it contained "statements
of a homophobic nature" and promoted "sexual-orientation-based harassment,"
even though the flyer made absolutely no mention of homosexuality.

The July 2003 lawsuit by Rederford and Christy claimed the city’s anti-discrimination
policy "promotes homosexuality" and "openly denounces Christian

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker dismissed the case in February 2005,
ruling the two women did not have their First Amendment rights violated and
that federal anti-discrimination protections afforded to gender, race, and religion
did not apply to the women plaintiffs.

The flier in question was posted Jan. 3, 2003, on an employee bulletin board
where a variety of political and sexually oriented causes are promoted. Titled,
"Preserve Our Workplace With Integrity," the entire text said:

Good News Employee Associations is a forum for people of Faith to express their
views on the contemporary issues of the day. With respect for the Natural Family,
Marriage and Family values.

If you would like to be a part of preserving integrity in the Workplace call
Regina Rederford @xxx-xxxx or Robin Christy @xxx-xxxx

The flyer was removed the same day, however, by order of Hicks and by immediate
enactment of a censorship policy by Robert Bobb.

In a memo announcing a newly revised workplace anti-discrimination policy,
Hicks noted recent incidents of employees "inappropriately posting materials"
in violation of that policy. At the time she noted, "Specifically, flyers
were placed in public view which contained statements of a homophobic nature
and were determined to promote sexual orientation-based harassment."

Attorney Richard Ackerman says, "We are going to take this case right
up the steps of the United States Supreme Court. We are simply unwilling to
accept that Christians can be completely silenced on the issues of the day —
especially on issues such as same-sex marriage, parental rights, and free speech
rights. If we fail to get U.S. Supreme Court review, however, it will be up
to each individual Christian in the United States to stand up for their rights
to be heard on the issues of the day. If we choose to be silent, silenced we
shall be."

On The Web: