Tuesday, May 8, 2012

11 comments Gene Wojciechowski Seems Frustrated and Confused By the First Amendment

Ron Brown is an assistant coach for the Nebraska football team. He has taken a public stance against homosexuals due to this faith. Gene Wojciechowski takes a stance against Ron Brown due to Brown's stance against homosexuals. Here is the interesting part about Gene's stance against Ron Brown. Gene poses hypothetical questions and suggests the University of Nebraska should fire Ron Brown or force him to change his views as an employee of the institution. Apparently the irony of forcing a person to quit his job or change his views because you don't like this views is lost on Gene. Let's get a few things out of the way before I tackle Gene's semi-hypocritical column.

1. The University of Nebraska is partially publicly funded, so theoretically Brown could be dismissed because of his beliefs by the University of Nebraska...maybe. I don't know if Nebraska is an at-will employment state or not nor do I really understand employment law that well. Th University may have to show cause for his firing. A lawsuit would probably be inevitable though.

2. Ron Brown has espoused his views and not done much else on this subject. He hasn't violated the rights of a Nebraska football player or student at this point. So this isn't a case of him actively persecuting homosexuals during the course of his job. Granted, Brown probably would treat homosexuals differently, but that's pure speculation on my part and I have no information this speculation is true.

3. Suggesting someone should be fired because you don't like their use of free speech, which Gene is essentially suggesting the University of Nebraska should do, is hypocritical when criticizing a person for his personal views. There seems to be something inherently wrong in my mind with saying, "I don't like Ron Brown's opinion, he should be fired." In a few ways, even though she got confused by how the Marlins were within their rights to punish Ozzie Guillen, Jen Engel was correct in that free speech means nothing if we only use it to defend speech we agree with.

Ron Brown isn't the only person who has an issue with homosexuals. The state of North Carolina will vote on Amendment One today. This amendment to the state constitution would define marriage in the state of North Carolina as between a man and a woman. I understand where those who favor the amendment are coming from, but I personally oppose it. Mostly, because I would prefer my state focus on the important things, like the rapidly declining funding for colleges, the unemployment rate, and actual important issues that affect the state rather than taking up time to fight the "moral decay" of our state. The state of North Carolina is a sinking ship financially and those legislators who proposed Amendment One are spending valuable legislative time making sure the deck chairs are arranged perfectly and the ship has a shiny look, rather than working to plug the hole that is causing the ship to sink.

That's just my opinion and this isn't intended to be a political blog. I only espouse my view to give what I am writing a certain perspective. I don't care what people do as long as it doesn't affect me. Two women being married doesn't mean my marriage is a sham and it doesn't make me feel any differently about my personal faith. To propose an amendment which specifically outlaws the marriage of a man and a woman in a state where gay marriage isn't even legal seems a bit cruel and petty to me. I see where Ron Brown is coming from though. His personal faith helps form his opinion of homosexuality and though I may disagree with it, that doesn't mean I am right or he doesn't have the right to espouse his opinion publicly as I just have. There is a separation of church and state, but people still have a right to their beliefs.

Gene Wojciechowski seems to believe Ron Brown doesn't have this right and wants the state of Nebraska or the University of Nebraska to bully Brown into changing his view or otherwise risking the security of his job.

Let's say there is a gay running back on the Nebraska roster. And Ron Brown is his position coach.

Let's say this gay running back probably wouldn't want to play for a position coach he considers to be a homophobe or disapproving of the way he lives his life. Would this player choose to play at Nebraska for Ron Brown?

Think about that for a moment.

Ok, thought about it. The running back would probably look to transfer or go to another college if it bothered him that much. Nebraska would be wise to allow him to transfer without sitting out an entire year. Problem solved.

And then think about Brown's very public stance against homosexuality.

Which he is within his right to have a very public stance on. That damn First Amendment allows this and his employer doesn't seem to want to punish for the stance. Therefore let him have his beliefs.

The Cornhuskers assistant coach recently testified in front of the Omaha (Neb.) City Council that gays, lesbians and transgender people shouldn't receive anti-discrimination protection under a proposed ordinance.

Again, while I disagree with him on this stance, this is his right. It always amazes me when people want others to be more open-minded on issues, but also want to silence or punish others for not being open-minded on these issues. It seems weird to me to try to silence others for not holding the same belief you do. Isn't Gene Wojciechowski questioning whether Ron Brown should be able to keep his job with the University of Nebraska (which is what he is doing, he just doesn't have the balls to come out and say it) because of his personal views a bit closed-minded? This is also example of Gene trying to project his beliefs on others when he is criticizing Brown for this very thing.

None of this would matter if Brown were an ordinary citizen with an extraordinary belief in his interpretation of the Bible's position on homosexuality.

This is very true. Because Ron Brown is a public employee it calls into question how tax dollars are going to pay for the salary of a coach who has a political stance based on personal views. If the University of Nebraska wanted to fire Ron Brown, they probably could do so. Of course by firing Ron Brown the University of Nebraska would be using tax dollars to espouse a political stance as well. So there's that.

But Brown isn't an ordinary citizen. He is a coach at a public university and for a revered football program whose reach stretches from Omaha to Scottsbluff. When he speaks, his words carry more power because of his association with Nebraska football.

You mean sort of like what has happened when University of Nebraska administrators, including the Chancellor, has come out as saying they don't agree with Ron Brown's personal views? Do his words carry more power or as much power as Brown's? I would possibly say so.

And there is no separation of church and state on Brown's Nebraska football office voice message:

"I praise the Lord Jesus Christ for today. I hope you're having a blessed day. Not able to answer my phone right now. Give me a try back and Lord willing, I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Have a great day."

So is Gene Wojciechowski saying that public employees can't espouse personal beliefs in public? I can see where this voicemail can be perceived as pro-Christianity, which apparently Gene finds personally offensive. It seems a bit constricting to not allow public employees from participating in a public discussion on a topic of interest to that employee. To be fair, if this is the position that Gene takes that Brown shouldn't be able to speak out against gay rights, a public employee should also not come out in favor of gay rights or any other "controversial" position like that. To prevent those who disagree with Gene's view from having a voice would also be to prevent those who agree with Gene from having a voice. The Chancellor of the University of Nebraska would not be able to say he favors homosexuals receiving anti-discrimination protection. It has to go both ways.

Brown, as well as Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, has said that Brown's city council testimony reflected only the assistant coach's personal views. But those views were made by an employee of a public university that receives 42 percent of its funding from the federal government and state appropriations.

So he should he be fired or forced to change his belief to keep his job? In the interview process after Ron Brown gets fired would it be fine if the applicant was asked his opinion on homosexuals and whether they deserve protection from discrimination? Could any applicants who don't agree with homosexuals receiving protection from discrimination be immediately eliminated as a candidate for the job? Or would any candidate who had a personal view that may conflict with popular opinion be forced to stay silent about his beliefs in order to keep his job, even though those in the majority of popular opinion are able to speak their beliefs? I'm pretty sure this is discrimination in and of itself.

And there in that statement, in boldface type, by the way, is this: "It is the policy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln not to discriminate based upon age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, gender, sex, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran's status, marital status, religion or political affiliation."

Gene is getting confused. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln does not discriminate based upon: "age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, gender, sex, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran's status, marital status, religion or political affiliation." This doesn't mean University of Nebraska-Lincoln employees are held to this standard when they aren't in the course of their job. So as long as Ron Brown isn't representing the University of Nebraska when he comes out against including homosexuals in an anti-discrimination law, I don't see why he should be punished for his view.

The policy of a business, university or institution doesn't necessarily apply to the employees who work at the school and what they believe away from that business, university or institution.

In a March 30 statement, Perlman said he was "personally offended" by Brown's stance relative to gays and lesbians. "Whether intended to do so or not, they reflect poorly on the university, on our athletic programs, and I am certain they cause pain and discomfort among a valued and productive segment of our community."

Then fire him! Silence him because Gene Wojciechowski doesn't agree with him! Agree with the majority or lose your job!

But Perlman added: "Unless and until I have evidence that Coach Brown has engaged in conduct beyond speech that many of us find offensive, I do not intend to do more than seek to assure that he speaks only for himself and to disassociate myself and this university from his position."

If this is how the University has chosen to handle the situation, they are very much within their rights to do so. Just like Ron Brown is within his rights to talk about his personal beliefs outside of his job as a University of Nebraska football assistant coach.

In other words, Brown can continue to call gays and lesbians "sinners," and then report to work the next morning.

Gene is the type of person I absolutely can't stand when he says things like this. Gene believes the anti-discrimination law should only apply to those who agree with the anti-discrimination law. It's not fine to discriminate against homosexuals, but if you hold an opinion Gene doesn't agree with, it is fine to discriminate against you.

Multiple interview requests were made to Brown, who is on the road recruiting. An athletic department spokesperson said Brown wasn't likely to respond to those requests.

Naturally, because Gene is concerned about Ron Brown's views having a public forum, Gene wants to give Ron Brown a public forum to talk about his views.

Actually what Gene wants to do is interview Brown to blow the story up so the story goes more national and Brown will eventually resign or be let go for his views on homosexuality. Gene can't fool me. I know what he is up to.

So Brown would be a willing martyr. And if he continues to confuse faith with a person's fundamental right not to be discriminated against, then Perlman and Osborne should fire him.

Well, I guess Gene does come out and say it. While I do agree with Gene's general position, I don't know if I agree with Gene putting pressure on the University of Nebraska to fire Ron Brown because of a personal belief.

Brown has the absolute right to express his views. But at what point do those views bleed into the workplace?

At the point where Brown's views negatively affect his ability to do his job as an assistant coach for Nebraska or he discriminates against a certain player because his sexuality. That's the point when his views bleed into the workplace. We are already at the point where Gene's views are bleeding over into Brown's right to freedom of speech. If the University of Nebraska wants to fire him, that's their business, but for Gene to want to urge the University to punish Brown for his personal view by causing him to lose his job isn't right in my opinion.

And Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has said that Brown discusses religion with his players, but, according to the AP, no team member has complained.

But what does that mean exactly? That the players want Brown to continue mixing religion with football, or that they're reluctant to say anything, in fear that it could affect their standing with a coach who controls their place on the depth chart?

Or...it could be the players like to talk to Ron Brown about religion, don't necessarily share every single one of his religious views, but still believe he is a good person with which to discuss religion. At the point a Nebraska player feels he has been demoted by Brown because his personal view that would be the point Brown is infringing on the rights of others and I would have an issue.

And what if there were a gay player on the Nebraska roster? Or what if one of the players Brown is trying to recruit this week is gay, or has a family member or friend who is gay?

Then that player needs to think, "Do I want to play for a team and University which has an employee who espouses the beliefs that Ron Brown has?"

These are not unreasonable scenarios. Would you want to play for a coach who thinks God loves gays less than women or African-Americans?

Probably not. Would I actively try to get the coach fired for merely having this belief? Absolutely not.

Would you want to play for a coach who preaches compassion and love, but is willing to turn his back on a fellow human being because of that person's sexual orientation?

Probably not. Would I write a column about an assistant coach who has a belief I don't agree with and suggest he is fired for having this belief, despite the fact it hasn't bled over into his work life? Absolutely not. Again, the University of Nebraska could theoretically try to fire Ron Brown, but the idea he should be fired merely for holding a belief people don't agree with seems like it is against the principles the United States holds dear.

(starts waving an American flag and chanting U-S-A!)

Discrimination is discrimination. It isn't a buffet line where Brown can pick and choose who can be protected from it. It is repugnant in all forms.

It's repugnant in all forms, unless you are trying to discriminate against a person who holds a belief you don't agree with. In that case, there's nothing wrong with a little discrimination. After all, everyone has to have one universal opinion in Gene Wojciechowski's preferred version of democracy.

Whether he realizes it or not, Brown's supposed private stance has public -- and Nebraska football -- implications.

Whether you realize it or not, you are projecting your own beliefs on Ron Brown and suggesting because he doesn't adhere to the same beliefs you do then he should be punished in the form of losing his job.

(a phone rings)

That's the North Korean government on the phone for you Gene. They want you to be the editor of the state newspaper. Apparently they read this column and were very impressed.

His beliefs find their way back to his players and the message is this: I've got your back -- as long as you're not gay.

Gene, you have made the First Amendment very sad. As long as Ron Brown isn't infringing on the rights of any of his players in the course of his doing his job, leave him alone and accept others have a different point of view than you do.


Isaac said...

I think the big problem with Brown is that he is using his position as a coach at a football crazy school to push his views. His foolish use of the stadium location as his home address doesn't help.
To me, this isn't a first amendment issue, its how he's representing the University of Nebraska, which is poorly. Just because we have the 1st doesn't give him free license to say whatever he pleases.

Bengoodfella said...

Isaac, it's a first amendment issue when you have Gene Wojciechowski wanting Brown to be fired by Nebraska for his views. From the PoV of the University it isn't a 1st amendment issue, but Gene doesn't like what Ron Brown is saying and wants him fired for it. That's wrong.

He absolutely does not have free license to say whatever he wants as an employee of the school and his employer can suspend, make him not use the stadium as his home address or fire him for his views. It's hypocritical for Gene to dislike what Ron Brown is saying and call for him to be fired. Gene wants tolerance as long as you agree with his position, otherwise he wants you silenced.

Yes, Brown is representing U of Nebraska poorly. His cry for tolerance while suggesting Ron Brown lose his job rings hollow to me.

Isaac said...

I seee what you're saying about Gene, and I really don't like his columns. He's either dreadfully obvious, or holier than thou. For the reocrd I love this site, so keep up the writing.

I just wish all of these guys could just keep a lids on their personal views, period. The curse of the information age I guess.

Bengoodfella said...

Isaac, I don't like his columns either. I thought on this he was simply trying to be a bully. I don't like Ron Brown's view and the University of Nebraska needs to tell him three specific things:

1. You can have your view, but do not incorporate or use any affiliation with the University while espousing your view.

2. Do not use the stadium as your home address.

3. If we find you have discriminated in any way against a homosexual player, staff member or student then you will be terminated.

They need to separate themselves more from his views they apparently disagree with. From Gene's PoV I think it becomes an issue of Brown being allowed to say what he wants without a private citizen calling for Brown to get fired. I think it is up to the University.

I don't mind you disagreeing with me at all on this...if you do. I'll try to keep up the good writing.

I wish people could keep a lid on their personal views as well. I try to do so, though obviously in some ways I have espoused a view through writing about this article.

I try to avoid talking about politics and religion on this site. I just had to tackle this column though.

Isaac said...

Your my go-to sports comedy site. I don't mind you writing about this. Someone has to take Gene down.

It would be refreshing to hear a sports figure talk just once about harmony (if they must talk at all) with no strings attached. Maybe some do, and its just not as juicy for the tabloids. But then, what would all of the Page 2 writers have to get righteously angry over. I'm waiting for Jemehill to say something to the tune that this is only a story because Brown is black.

Bengoodfella said...

Isaac, I don't know if anyone has called it a sports comedy site before. It isn't inaccurate because I definitely try to be humorous. To be honest, my best humor is to be experienced in person when I am complaining about something. In writing, I think I lose a lot. That's just my egotistical view of myself.

I enjoyed writing about this, but it is as close to politics as I get.

It's not cool to write about harmony. An article writing about how harmony and things like that don't really get pageviews. Controversy sells and bad writing gets pageviews. Just look at Gregg Easterbrook. He's terrible and it seems pretty widely acknowledged how bad he is and yet he is a popular writer for ESPN.

I don't think JemeHill will write about this story being about race because she knows Brown is in the wrong and she wouldn't be seen as on the wrong side of this discussion. Rick Reilly wrote about something the situation, but added his own schtick to it.

HH said...

As the resident lawyer, a few comments:

1. The speech Brown gave is at the heart of what the First Amendment is about: political speech, given to a governmental panel to influence a law. That's the MOST protected speech. The alternative, of course, is the ability to ban citizens from expressing their opinion to legislators to influence their vote and the laws they live under.

2. GW is very confused about how the First Amendment applies here. It's specifically BECAUSE Nebraska is state funded that the First Amendment protection is stronger, rather than weaker, because the government is not allowed to censor such speech.

3. Combining 1 and 2 above, there is no way under American law that Nebraska can punish Brown. That would be tantamount to saying that state/federal employees can be prohibited by their employers from being citizens.

4. I agree with everyone who's said that Brown may not discriminate against players or staff as part of his job. That much should be obvious. He signs on to his employers rules willingly. But employers cannot strip individuals of basic rights as a condition of employment, and certainly not state funded employers.

5. By GW's logic, if a coach in North Carolina tomorrow lobbies for gay marriage, the state colleges should be able to fire him because he is lobbying for something that state institutions now officially are against.

6. I had some other thoughts about this, but I think we've reached the point of diminishing returns in this discussion.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, you have to be like me. Write until you banged your point home 100 times and there are completely diminishing returns! I'm kidding, of course.

Thanks for chiming in. So I was wrong and Brown's speech is the most protected speech. I guess my three suggestions to Brown wouldn't work, except for #3 since it involved outright discrimination against a student/player.

I did not know Nebraska could not punish Ron Brown. I don't like his speech and don't agree with him, but I respect his right to believe it. It appears in some ways he is still a part of a majority opinion.

So Gene was really, really wrong then to suggest Nebraska should fire Brown. I thought he was just being a hypocrite and trying to be the thought police when in fact U of Nebraska could not fire him for his beliefs.

I think that's what irritated me the most about Gene's PoV. A NC state college could fire an employee for his beliefs that gay marriage should be legal and many people would be against this person being fired. So it works the other way too...or at least it should, though it appears Gene disagrees.

Thanks for chiming in. It appears Gene is more wrong than I thought he was. That doesn't happen often on this blog.

jacktotherack said...

I think the real issue everyone is missing here is this: How much fun must Ron Brown be to be around? Jesus, if I were a recruit and I got his voicemail away message there would be no way in hell I'd even consider Nebraska.

I do agree with you completely on GW being out of line. While Brown seems like an old Bible-thumping coot who is stuck in the 1950's, he still has the right to express his narrow-minded views.

One final thing, much like being leary about Easterbrook's constant drooling over "sideline cheer-babes" I'm also always suspicious of anyone who is that vehemently anti-homosexual.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, that's very true. Nebraska just had a big-time RB transfer, though I don't think it had anything to do with Brown, but more with playing time. Depending on my upbringing, I may hear that voicemail and wonder if I want to play at Nebraska. Not because I don't like God, but because of the whole "Lord willing I'll call you back" thing. Seems sort of morbid to me for some reason.

Not to go all crazy "can't we all just get along" but as much as I may not like Ron Brown's view, he has a right to say it. Apparently he has a legal right as well.

I see what you are saying about being suspicious. Sort of one of those "he hates them because he hates himself" type things huh?

jacktotherack said...

Like Chris Cooper in American Beauty