Local Government Bans Christian Symbol in the Name of Diversity, Claiming It’s “Offensive” – ACLJ Fires Back

By 

Christina Compagnone

|
June 7, 2023

3 min read

Religious Liberty

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It’s always been the ACLJ’s mission to ensure that individuals are not unfairly silenced or discriminated against for expressing their beliefs. Enter our client, who simply wanted to express her Christian beliefs like everyone else in her workplace, but was told she must remove the fish symbol next to her email signature line. The ACLJ stepped in with a demand letter to her employer to demand justice and illuminate the dark corners where shadows of censorship and discrimination loom.

The echoes of injustice reverberated through the halls of Nevada Vocational Rehabilitation (NVR) when our client and her co-workers sought to exercise their individual voices in their email signature lines. Amidst a chorus of pronouns and symbols that celebrated diversity, she chose to display a humble Christian fish symbol – a testament to her unwavering faith.

However, our client was singled out and summoned to remove the symbol from her signature line. It was deemed “offensive” by an unnamed government official who held the power to silence her voice. Frustrated and concerned about the inconsistent treatment she experienced, our client expressed her objections and requested the implementation of a uniform signature line policy to ensure fairness and non-discrimination. However, she was flatly ignored by her superiors, and she was still required to remove the Christian symbol while other co-workers were able to profess their beliefs without issue.

Undeterred, she brought her case to the ACLJ, and we swiftly fired out a demand letter to NVR, arguing that their actions of selectively targeting our client’s religious expression violate her First Amendment freedoms of speech and religious exercise.

Under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the government must not burden sincere religious speech or practice unless there is a compelling state interest that is narrowly tailored. Furthermore, the Free Speech Clause protects government employees' rights to express themselves, even within the context of their employment. When restricting speech or religious exercise, the government bears the burden of justifying its actions.

In our client’s case, NVR’s actions appear to be neither neutral nor generally applicable. In fact, they are arbitrary and discriminatory. By singling out her religious expression while allowing other employees to include symbols and language expressing their own beliefs, NVR’s inconsistent application of standards raises serious constitutional concerns. The Establishment Clause, which limits the power of the government, does not restrict individuals from expressing their beliefs, nor does it permit the suppression of religious speech based on perceived offense or discomfort.

As we await NVR’s response to the demand letter, it is our hope that they recognize the constitutional concerns raised and take appropriate steps to protect the rights of their employees. The outcome of this case will not only have a significant impact on our client’s personal situation but also set a precedent for safeguarding First Amendment rights in workplaces across the country.

The ACLJ will always stand in defense of constitutional freedoms for our clients and fight to protect the rights of every individual to express their beliefs without fear of discrimination or retribution. Please reach out to ACLJ.org/HELP if you are experiencing a similar situation.