- The Washington Times
Thursday, May 26, 2022

OPINION:

Alaska Airlines wants everyone to know that it’s all for equality and inclusion. Except when it isn’t.

In fact, thanks to a lawsuit filed May 17 by two fired former flight attendants against the Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, we know the carrier regards some favored classes — specifically, LGBTQ individuals — as more equal than others; in this case, people with sincerely held religious beliefs.


Marli Brown and Lacey Smith, a pair of Christian women represented by First Liberty Institute, accused the airline of “cultivating a hostile work environment for people of faith.”

“Despite Alaska Airlines’ claimed commitment to an inclusive culture and its frequent invitations to employees to dialogue and express a diversity of perspectives, Alaska Airlines created a work environment that is hostile toward religion,” the court filing says.

It cites several Alaska Airlines’ policies openly omitting religion as a protected characteristic of employees, and its nondiscrimination policies often fail to include religion as a protected classification.

It all began on Feb. 21, 2021, when Alaska Airlines announced on its internal message board that it strongly supported the congressional passage of the so-called Equality Act. (It passed the House four days later, but deservedly died in the Senate.)

The bill would have added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes (which already include the religiously observant) to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while at the same time gutting additional legal protections provided by the 1994 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Employees are allowed to comment and ask questions on the message board about company posts. Ms. Smith asked pointedly: “As a company, do you think it’s possible to regulate morality?”

That didn’t sit well with the airline’s “woke” brass, who fired back: “Defining gender identity or sexual orientation as a moral issue or questioning the Company’s support for the rights of all people regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, is not a philosophical question, but a discriminatory statement. … Your posting was offensive, discriminatory, and did not align with Alaska Airlines’ values.”

But as the lawsuit notes: Categorically saying that “defining gender identity or sexual orientation as a moral value is … a discriminatory statement” is itself a discriminatory statement, because many people — indeed, millions of Americans — view issues involving sexuality as religious or moral questions.

After researching the Equality Act online, Ms. Brown was understandably alarmed. Citing an article published by The Heritage Foundation, “11 Myths About H.R. 5, the Equality Act of 2021,” she wrote, in part:

“Does Alaska support: endangering the Church, encouraging suppression of religious freedom, obliterating [women’s] rights and parental rights? This act will [force] every American to agree with controversial government-imposed ideology … or be treated as an outlaw.”

“The Equality Act demolishes existing civil rights and constitutional freedoms, which threatens constitutional freedoms by eliminating conscience protections from the Civil Rights Act.”

“The Equality Act would affect everything from girls’ and women’s showers and locker rooms to women’s shelters and women’s prisons, endangering safety and diminishing privacy.”

Without evidence to the contrary, Alaska Airlines vehemently disputed that dire assessment of what the Equality Act would do.

Within hours, Smith and Brown — both of whom had rave reviews from passengers in their personnel files — were suspended, and after a series of largely perfunctory and pro forma hearings, on March 19, 2021, both were fired.

According to the 54-page court filing, the Association of Flight Attendants union made what at best could be called a half-hearted effort to defend them and is being sued along with the airline.

As a result of their termination, the lawsuit says, Ms. Brown and Ms. Smith “suffered a loss of income, loss of benefits, emotional harm, reputational harm, mental anguish, and great inconvenience.”

As such, “Plaintiffs are entitled to front pay, back pay, restitution, compensatory damages, and injunctive relief to be restored to their positions. Additionally, Plaintiffs are entitled to the reasonable costs of this lawsuit, including their reasonable attorneys’ fees.”

Stiff punitive judgments against Alaska Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants would go a long way toward reminding them — and the rest of the rabidly woke corporate world — that there’s a steep price to be paid for violating the rights of religious Americans.


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