I've been following this story for the past couple of days. The story intersects my interests in multiple ways: 1) it's about a transgender woman, 2) who gets fired for being trans, 3) here in Michigan, 4) raising questions regarding the reach of Title VII (and its Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQ) exemption) and 5) the protections provided under the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion.
Christian-based Spring Arbor University is firing the transgender professor, effective June 1, choosing not to tolerate Nemecek's transformation from John to Julie Marie.
After a half-century of internal conflict, Nemecek, an associate dean of adult studies, began to appear as a woman on campus in late 2005.
In a perfect world, I'd analyze all of this for you and tell you what the competing positions are or are likely to be -- wait, who am I kidding? In a perfect world I'd be either taking her case or working with Randi Barnabee in representing her (Randi is the lawyer who represented Smith in Smith v. City of Salem that ultimately won for the transgender firefighter in the 6th Circuit). But, it's not a perfect world and I'm still studying like mad for the bar exam.
So, instead I refer you to this post written by Dr. Jillian Weiss at Transgender Workplace Diversity. I note that she makes a couple of statements that I disagree with, but on the whole, I think it's pretty good (I think she overstates (or even misstates) the significance of Smith, for example).
Another thing that I'd like to see analyzed or discussed is the fact that Ms. Nemecek is an ordained Baptist minister, clearly a Christian. Yet, the reason she's being fired is because
"We expect our faculty to model Christian character as an example for our students," read a university statement issued by a public-relations firm. Faculty who "persist with activities that are inconsistent with the Christian faith" are subject to firing.
What is "Christian character"? Clearly, it's not "judge not, lest ye be judged", nor is it "love thy neighbor as thyself". And, whose Christian faith? I bet Rev. Debra Haffner would not suggest that Ms. Nemecek's character is un-Christian.