We hear an awful lot from the left about how important it is to promote diversity and make sure all perspectives are represented. But while politically left groups certainly value the importance of promoting their views and making sure their perspectives are represented, time and time again they’ve shown that their diversity commitment seldom includes those who hold different views. In fact, anyone who disagrees with leftist dogma runs the risk of being vilified, slandered, and silenced.
Just ask Kay Coles James, president of The Heritage Foundation. Earlier this year, James was appointed to Google’s external advisory committee on artificial intelligence. The point of the committee was to have a dialogue among people with varying viewpoints about the appropriate role of artificial intelligence in society. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?
But there was a snag: James doesn’t share the left’s views on every issue, and it didn’t take long for Google employees to make their anti-conservative bias clear. A petition started circulating, calling for Google executives to eject James from the committee because of her views—such as her reasonable view that biology and sex are related, and her defense of limited government. The petition quickly turned into a social media firestorm in which James was publicly slandered and insulted, with no opportunity to defend herself.
Rather than standing up for true diversity, Google caved. Google dissolved the committee, communicating that the presence of a single individual with a diverse viewpoint made dialogue impossible.
James opened up about her experience on Fox News in May, sharing just how disturbing it was to hear how the left characterized her. One slanderous title that really made her head spin was that she, an African-American woman, was a “white nationalist.” “I didn’t recognize the person they were describing,” James said. “This was bigotry.”
James’ strong indictment runs counter to a predominant cultural narrative that says progressives are above bigotry, and those who disagree with them are guilty until proven innocent. The actions she calls out—slandering and excluding those who have different views—are incredibly widespread. Every day, individuals on public university campuses, in business and the arts, and in medical professions have to choose between sharing their beliefs and living out their values in their education, careers, or businesses, or being blasted as bigots the way James was.
“Diversity” advocates are so committed to shutting down opposing views that they don’t limit themselves to cultural pressures to get their way. They also use federal courts to improperly redefine federal law to marginalize opposing views.
Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in the case R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the EEOC could force a century-old, family-run funeral home to allow a male funeral director to wear women’s clothing when serving and supporting grieving family members and friends—in direct conflict with the funeral home’s sex-specific dress code.
There was nothing exceptional about the funeral home’s reasonable stance: Federal law has long allowed sex-specific dress codes, as confirmed by the EEOC’s own employment panel. So to pull off this ruling, the Sixth Circuit unilaterally redefined “sex” under Title VII federal employment law, which provides for equal employment opportunities regardless of a person’s race, religion, national origin, or sex.
When Title VII was enacted in 1964, the public meaning of sex was biological sex, either male or female. After all, that meaning has been rooted in the English language from time immemorial. Ironically, Title VII was a law that protected women, ensuring that employers couldn’t discriminate against women in their employment practices.
By redefining “sex” to mean “gender identity” or “transgender status” rather than biological male or female, the Sixth Circuit punished Harris Funeral Homes for violating a law that was completely different than the one Congress enacted. And the court created innumerable other problems.
If “sex” means “gender identity,” then biological men can take women’s spots in high school athletic competitions, as recently happened in New England. Biological men could also demand to sleep mere feet away from women who have been victimized by rape and domestic violence, as happened in Anchorage, Alaska.
Of course there is room in our culture to debate the nature and value of gender identity theory. But reinterpreting laws that have a well-understood public meaning to punish a business owner and to deny women equal opportunities and bodily privacy is the exact opposite of respecting diversity. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted Harris Funeral Homes for review, providing an opportunity to correct the Sixth Circuit’s ruling.
Diversity of thought is an absolute necessity in our country. America is diverse—beautifully, wonderfully, incredibly diverse. To preserve that diversity, we must be able to respectfully share our different perspectives without being shut down.
What the Sixth Circuit did by unilaterally imposing a trendy notion that sex and biology aren’t related was an attempt to silence one point of view. What Google did when it dissolved the committee on artificial intelligence implies that the presence of one dissenting view justifies ending the discussion.
So if we truly believe in diversity, we have to stand up for the people and perspectives that are being systematically attacked by the left. When Alliance Defending Freedom argued at the Supreme Court for Jack Phillips and his views on marriage in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and for pregnancy centers and their views on life in NIFLA v. Becerra, we were arguing freedom for all Americans.
Now that the Supreme Court has accepted the Harris case, we will do so again, arguing that the public meaning of “sex” discrimination in 1964 referred to biological sex, and that changing the meaning through judicial fiat harms businesses who rely on the law and women who are entitled to equal opportunity and bodily privacy.
After all, the ability to debate this in our culture and in our legislatures is a freedom for us all, and the wins for freedom in Masterpiece and NIFLA were wins for all of us—as would be a win for Harris Funeral Homes.