Catholic college restores pro-family employee after ‘hate crime’ investigation
LOS ANGELES, California, July 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic university employee who was suspended from work for two weeks after telling students there are two genders has been restored to her position without loss of pay or benefits, her attorney told LifeSiteNews.
“We’re satisfied with the outcome,” attorney Charles LiMandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund told LifeSiteNews. LiMandri assisted Loyola Marymount University (LMU) employee Gigi Kurz as she faced a hate crime investigation after explaining Catholic teachings on human sexuality to student LGBT activists.
The students had approached Kurz after she removed their pro-LGBT signs, which they claimed were approved for posting by the university as part of “Rainbow Week.” Nothing on the signs indicated the university approved them. LMU’s own policies stipulate that on-campus advertising “must be compatible with the University’s mission.”
LMU’s mission statement declares, “The University is institutionally committed to Roman Catholicism and takes its fundamental inspiration from the combined heritage of the Jesuits, the Marymount Sisters, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. This Catholic identity and religious heritage distinguish LMU from other universities and provide touchstones for understanding our threefold mission.”
The conversation that took place was a “dialogue,” LiMandri said, “with the girls … asking questions and my client providing information.” There was “nothing to suggest anything hateful about the tone or purpose of conversation. The girls later reported it as hateful because they didn’t like [Kurz’s] message, which was contrary to their message.”
LiMandri noted that the students seemed to be trying to bait Kurz at times during the conversation, such as when they asked if she thought they were going to hell. But Kurz remained polite and told them it was not her place to judge that, LiMandri said.
According to LiMandri, Kurz explained that as a Christian, she’s called to love others, and that means loving “the distinctions between men and women as part of the creator’s plan so that human beings can come together according to sublime purpose in married life, and [believing] sex is restricted to that union between a man and woman in married life.”
There was not a “hint” of hostility in what Kurz said or how she said it, according to LiMandri. This is consistent with the account Kurz herself and a witness gave of the conversation.
“The girls chose for their own political purposes to turn it into a hate crime complaint,” LiMandri said.
After the conversation, LMU’s Gender Sexuality Alliance issued a press release alleging that Kurz, who was then unnamed, had “[denied] the existence of transgender people,” and referred to a “gender non-conforming” student as a man.
LMU’s Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) began working with the Los Angeles Police Department to investigate the incident. Meanwhile, Kurz enlisted the help of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund. LiMandri filed a BIRT report on behalf of Kurz alleging that his client was the victim of anti-Catholic bigotry.
According to LiMandri, after LMU’s investigation of Kurz began, LMU quickly dropped the hate crime charge in its investigation and instead began treating the situation as though related to allegations of discrimination.
“My client had to suffer being stigmatized and marginalized,” LiMandri said, and the ordeal was “very traumatic” for her. She was told to leave her desk and not talk to anyone despite having been employed by LMU for 15 years.
“She assumed she was fired,” LiMandri explained.
According to LiMandri, LMU has not issued a formal apology or taken action against the students for the suffering they caused Kurz. However, he said LMU’s investigation cleared Kurz of any wrongdoing and restored her to her position in the university’s alumni office without loss of pay or any permanent marks on her record.
“From my client’s point of view, although she has a legitimate claim for discrimination, based upon the fact that she was treated rather badly in all of this,” she simply wants to go back to doing her job “the way she always has,” LiMandri said. “She likes her job and feels she’s in a position to help people and wants to continue doing that. ... She wasn’t looking for a lawsuit, although in my view, she certainly had a right to bring one.”
LMU’s website lists the incident, “Removal of Authorized LGBTQ+ Awareness Week Signage (Palm Walk),” as “closed.” According to LMU, this means “BIRT has reviewed the incident within the framework of its charge and purpose, has reported information and/or made recommendations if appropriate, and has determined that responsible university officials and/or departments have assumed responsibility for resolving an incident, ... BIRT's role in monitoring an incident may be closed but other investigation processes may be ongoing.”
The BIRT complaint asserting that Kurz faced anti-Catholic bias is not listed on LMU’s website.
“I don’t feel we ever got a satisfactory formal response to that,” LiMandri said.
“As I recall, the only formal response I got was along the lines that, that can’t be submitted by someone other than a member of the university [community],” LiMandri said. “In other words, the fact that I had submitted it for her as a legal representative [meant] they didn’t consider that to be a valid complaint, which is the first I’ve ever heard of anything like that.”
LiMandri asked if that meant someone relatively unfamiliar with legal matters “who feels her rights are violated and who themselves is subject to official action being taken can’t have a lawyer respond on their behalf?”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” he remarked. However, because Kurz is not filing a lawsuit and because she was restored to her job without loss of pay or benefits, she will not pursue the BIRT claim that LiMandri filed for her, he said.
Celeste Durant of LMU’s media relations office declined to comment about personnel matters.