Friday, December 26, 2008
Score another victory for mandatory tolerance.
Air Force Veteran Tonia Thomas says she was fired by a Florida real estate management company earlier this month because she refused company instructions to tell callers, "Happy Holidays."
Thomas, a rental assistant for Counts Oaks Resort Properties in Panama City, told her supervisor that she would say "Merry Christmas" or skip holiday greetings all together but "Happy Holidays" would contribute to the secularization of Christmas in violation of her religious beliefs.
When Thomas explained her position to company president Andy Phillips on December 10 he fired Thomas, who worked there since July 2007, for "insubordination." He then said sarcastically, "We are going to have a Merry Christmas here. Are you going to have a Merry Christmas with no job?"
Phillips told her to leave immediately or he would call the police, which he did when she tried to get her purse from inside her desk. The police made her leave.
Phillips says Thomas was not fired for refusing to say "Happy Holidays" but declined to give a reason for the dismissal.
Thomas filed a complaint with the EEOC. Liberty Counsel, which represents victims of religious discrimination, has taken up her cause.
Legally, she may have an uphill battle. Employers have considerable latitude over how employees speak for the company, according to recent decisions.
But a reasonable compromise would have been to just let her answer the phone without an special greeting. Would that have really hurt business? Phillips seems fanatical in his desire to enforce tolerance.
But then again tolerance always is at least a little oppressive because it tells people how to think or act. Be tolerant--or else.
Thomas took the or else and now she's out of a job.
--EVAN GAHR has written about religion for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Washington Jewish Week and many other publications.