9th Circuit OKs city's removal of workers' religious-club flier

By The Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — A federal appeals court has ruled that the city of Oakland acted legally when it pulled down a flier posted by two city employees who had formed a religious club to promote "the natural family, marriage and family values."

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on March 5 upheld a federal judge's dismissal of a lawsuit two years ago by Regina Regerford and Robin Christy, who worked in Oakland's Community and Economic Development Agency.

After other workers founded a Gay and Lesbian Employees Association in 2002, Regerford and Christy formed the Good News Employee Association and displayed a flier promoting the group as a "forum for people of faith" to express their views "with respect for the natural family, marriage and family values."

A supervisor removed the flier six weeks later after an employee complained it contained homophobic statements and violated the city's anti-harassment policy.

Regerford and Christy sued, but in February 2005 a federal judge dismissed the claim, ruling the two had other ways to communicate their views and the city was entitled to enforce its ban on harassing gay and lesbian employees.

The three-judge 9th Circuit panel in Good News Employee Association v. Hicks upheld the dismissal of that lawsuit. The court ruled that government agencies can restrict free speech in the workplace if the decision serves "legitimate administrative interests" and the interference with employee speech is outweighed by the agency's need to maintain "the efficient operation of their office."