– A Catholic student who said his university newspaper wrongly dismissed him for his critical views on homosexuality and transgenderism has brought a lawsuit in a Canadian human rights court alleging that he was wrongly discriminated against.
Jonathan Bradley, a 21-year-old fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto, was cut out of The Eyeopener in June 2020 after a former student posted a three-year private discussion on religion, homosexuality, and transgender people on Twitter for people in the military.
The Eyeopener is an independent student newspaper owned and operated by a not-for-profit company that is itself operated by Ryerson University students. The university has approximately 44,000 students and most of its students pay a levy to cover the running and costs of the newspaper.
Bradley’s attorney Carol Crosson said the outcome of the case could affect any employee who is at risk of employers engaging in social media posts. Canadian law treats volunteers in the same way as employees. She expressed hope that judicial authorities will rule against employers who punish individuals for comments both inside and outside the workplace, Canadian Catholic News reports.
“When we in society are punished for conversations between individuals in our workplace, it’s a slippery slope that we dare not climb,” Crosson said. “The right to freedom of expression in society and the dissemination of our beliefs is vital. It is crucial for a functioning democracy. Should it be that individuals are punished for their conversations, it really goes against the fundamental freedoms we have in society. It calms the language, even the past language. “
Crosson expressed the hope that the judicial authorities would “not consent to the punishment of those who have conversations outside of their workplace”.
Bradley has filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for $ 20,000 in damages, reinstatement as a contributing writer, and mandate for the “Develop and Implement Non-Discriminatory Policies and Practices” report, Canadian Catholic News reports.
The eyeopener denied Bradley’s allegations of discrimination.
“We emphatically reject the applicant’s allegations of discrimination. Even so, we will honor the trials (of the human rights court) at this point and not comment further, ”the newspaper said in a statement.
Bradley had previously received a reprimand from an eyeopener editor after posting university diversity, inclusion and equity offices, including an event, in a March 2, 2020 opinion piece on another outlet, the Conservative News and Commentary post of Ryerson University, had criticized Millennial
On June 3 last year, a former classmate of Bradley’s who also objected to the statement posted screenshots of private messages with Bradley on Twitter from 2017 onwards. In that discussion, classmate disapproved of Bradley’s views on homosexuality and transgenderism and asked him to delete his public Twitter post.
The classmate posted the exchange and tagged the newspaper and Bradley on Twitter. The classmate said Bradley was a “fanatic” who “tweeted things obviously homophobic and transphobic”.
“In 2017 he made it very clear that homosexuality is a sin. I called him publicly and texted him privately and that is exactly what happened. You have to do better! “The classmate told the eyeopener on Twitter.
Screenshots from the 2017 private exchange show Bradley’s responses to a discussion that included religion, sexual ethics, and free speech.
“I don’t see how homophobic or transphobic my comments are, as the Bible teaches,” said Bradley, who said he has family members in the LGBT community. “I hate people freaking out when someone says something that the Bible made clear. I want people to remember that any sin, no matter how serious, can be forgiven as long as they repent. Do you understand what I’m saying? “
His correspondent said it was “homophobic” to make one’s belief known, adding, “The world we live in is secular, especially in Canada, and that needs to be respected. You can worship God and believe that being LGBTQ + is a sin you want. Just don’t say it publicly. “
“We’re at a point where we think we have to accept everything,” Bradley replied. “Freedom of expression is suppressed as different opinions are closed. I have given my opinion related to my religion. People are afraid to express their views because they are told that they are “offensive”. We are approaching dictatorship because people cannot express the religion of the majority of the population without being told it is wrong.
When the discussion was re-published publicly in June 2020, Bradley commented on Twitter:
“Was that a gotcha moment or was it because of extreme boredom?” he asked. “If you read my messages correctly, you will see that I am quoting what the Bible says. Everyone has a right to their opinion, including the Bible. “
On June 9, Eyeopener editor-in-chief Catherine Abes emailed Bradley saying that the contributing journalist had been fired, Canadian news site True North News reports.
She cited “screenshots of a conversation in which you defended the notion that homosexuality and transgender are viewed as sin”.
“I see you tweeted that feeling in the past and defended it in the present,” she said.
Abes said the publication has a responsibility to ensure that its community, including sources, contributors, readers and editors, “feels safe and comfortable when working with The Eyeopener and coming into our space”.
“I fear that since you posted your opinion, members of our community, especially queer, trans, and non-binary people, would no longer feel safe being associated with the publication,” she said in an E -Mail of June 9th.
“For these reasons, I have decided that you can no longer contribute to The Eyeopener.”
Bradley’s use of the term “homosexuality” has also attracted some comments. In common parlance, it can describe sexual orientation, sexual activity, or both.
Moral theologian Doris Kieser of St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta told Canadian Catholic News that in Catholic thought, “homosexual behavior is viewed as sinful, but orientation itself is not.”
Crosson said that courts do not determine the accuracy or completeness of Bradley’s understanding of the Catholic Faith. Crosson said Bradley had to demonstrate “sincerity of belief”.
“The Supreme Court (Canada) test of sincerity of faith is a very comprehensive test of respect for the devotee,” she said. “There is an assumption that sincerity of belief is valid. I don’t see that as a problem in his claim. “
In a similar controversy, Florida State University student Jack Denton was removed from his role as President of the Senate after comments on a private chat group for Catholic students that were subsequently distributed to a member of the Senate. Concerns were raised in the comments that the political positions of certain groups such as the ACLU and BlackLivesMatter.com contradicted the Church’s teaching on abortion, marriage, sexuality and policing. He warned students to be aware of these positions before donating to the groups.
As a result, fellow students accused him of transphobia and racism. After a first vote of no confidence, he was dismissed in June 2020 in a further vote by the student senate.
Denton filed a lawsuit against the Student Senate’s decision in both university and federal courts.
A federal court ruled that Denton’s claim of a violation of his freedom of speech is likely to succeed and ordered the university to pay Denton six hours a week for the remainder of his tenure as Senate president. The court did not order his reinstatement.
The student court reinstated him in October, agreeing that the action was unconstitutional retaliation for his private statements in the group chat of the Catholic Student Association where he expressed his religious beliefs and protected actions through the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Denton’s federal proceedings are ongoing. University officials have not denied the facts, but rather challenged whether they are legally liable.