Restored ‘without loss of pay’
A Jesuit university employee who was suspended and investigated for the “hate crime” of believing in two genders has been reinstated by the school.
Her identity was also revealed for the first time by the religious freedom law firm that took her case, the California-based Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF).
The law firm declined to tell The College Fix how it persuaded Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles to reinstate alumni relations employee Gigi Kurz and remove the black mark from her record.
The FCDF has filed a few defamation suits against institutions that allegedly smeared its clients.
President and Chief Counsel Charles LiMandri even threatened to file suit against a law professor, the college that employed him and a newspaper for an op-ed that LiMandri said defamed him personally.
No apology from accusing students
Kurz was investigated by LMU’s Bias Incident Response Team, which roped in the Los Angeles Police Department, after female students reported Kurz for “denying transgenderism.”
The students were hanging up “pansexual” signs for the school’s pro-LGBTQ Rainbow Week when Kurz approached them and, according to the 15-year employee, respectfully shared her traditional Catholic view of sexuality. One of the students identifies as “gender-neutral.”
In a glowing July 15 letter from Kurz to LiMandri and “Paul” – presumably FCDF lawyer Paul Jonna – the newly reinstated Loyola employee praised the firm for putting the university “on notice that they were not dealing with amateurs.”
“You established that LMU was the one violating their own policies in protecting the deceitful behaviors of the LGBT students [who were hanging signs], and in that, promoting anti-Catholicism,” Kurz wrote. She was restored to her position “without loss of pay.”
“I was frantic and you calmed me down … And then you turned the table around on the whole issue to go on the attack,” Kurz continued, calling herself a new “lifetime contributor” to the firm’s work.
Kurz told The Fix that she was on vacation and couldn’t comment on the resolution of the dispute until she returned.
In a phone interview with The Fix, LiMandri said the FCDF asked the university to investigate the alleged discrimination committed by Kurz against the students, rather than simply take the students’ word for it, but he said the university ignored it.
LMU said the request had to come directly from Kurz, according to LiMandri: “That’s the most ridiculous thing.” LMU did not respond to a Fix request for comment.
As for the provisions of Kurz’s reinstatement, LiMandri said there was no “money exchange” and that there are “no restrictions whatsoever” on Kurz’s interactions with students going forward.
All Kurz wanted was “to make sure she would not be persecuted for her beliefs as a devoted Catholic,” as she had expressed them to the students who filed the complaint, LiMandri said. “She just wanted to resume her job and help people.”
Charles Limandri pic.twitter.com/OlOzBv77Jm
— Geeky Christian (@geeky_christian) November 9, 2013
LiMandri said his firm didn’t threaten LMU to get Kurz reinstated, but only “protected her interest.” He said the signs put up by the students who complained about Kurz had not been formally approved by Loyola and went against its mission statement, which says the school is “institutionally committed to Roman Catholicism.”
But Kurz wasn’t the only one who emerged with a clean slate, he continued: The girls who felt targeted by Kurz were not penalized.
“Nothing happened to them,” said LiMandri. “Gigi did not ask them to apologize and they didn’t, which is a reflection on them.”
Using defamation suit threats to get results
The FCDF, which officially launched four years ago, publicized the resolution of Kurz’s dispute in an email update that also summarized its previous four victories for employees at academic institutions.
It defended Robert Oscar Lopez, also known as “Bobby,” a California State University-Northridge professor who was raised by two lesbians but grew up to write articles supporting traditional marriage.
LiMandri told The Fix that Lopez had said “in vitro fertilization isn’t good for kids because they don’t know their biological parents,” and that view made him a target at the school.
The FCDF defended Lopez against allegations of misconduct and helped him keep his tenured position, though Lopez has since resigned, citing continued hostility from colleagues and students.
In another case, the law firm defended public school teacher Brad Johnson, who was told to take down “patriotic banners” in his classroom stating “under God” and “In God We Trust.”
Though it won the court case for Johnson, FCDF brought a defamation lawsuit against another teacher for “rumors” against Johnson and reached a confidential settlement in 2012. LiMandri didn’t specify what those rumors were.
“We don’t normally threaten to sue for defamation, but if a case calls for it then we will,” said LiMandri. “We have only done so three times in the last 10 years.”
Another case where FCDF used the threat of a defamation suit involved University of San Diego Prof. Anne Hendershott, who wrote an editorial supporting President George W. Bush’s refusal to let a suspected terrorist into the U.S.
In response, a fellow faculty member launched a “student boycott” of her classes. According to the email update, the university suspended the boycott and made the faculty member apologize.
LiMandri told The Fix that it threatened a defamation suit because that fellow faculty member publicly called Hendershott “bigoted,” but it was satisfied with the written apology.
“We have found that most anti-Christian activists are really just big bullies, and like all bullies, if they actually have to fight, they’ll usually back down,” the email update reads.
LiMandri’s personal threatened defamation suit concerned claims made about his own legal practice following FCDF’s lawsuit defending San Diego firefighters from compelled participation in a gay pride parade.
A professor had written in an LGBT newspaper that LiMandri could not both sue the city of San Diego and also represent it as a client, LiMandri said. At the time he was still representing the city in a case that had dragged on several years.
LiMandri says that the FCDF does not have a problem with critics using their freedom of speech, as long as “they don’t hurt people’s lives.”
“There are limitations,” said LiMandri. “We cannot use free speech if it is defamatory.”
UPDATE: A photo of the pansexual sign that sparked Kurz’s conversation with the students has been added, with permission of LifeSiteNews.
IMAGES: Ashley Marinaccio/Flickr, LifeSiteNews, Mishigaki/Wikimedia Commons