Court Rules HP's Firing Peterson for Anti-Gay Quotes Legal

( [email protected] ) Jan 09, 2004 01:32 PM EST

Richard Peterson was fired from Hewlett-Packard's(HP) Boise, Idaho office when he refused to remove Biblical passages that denounced homosexuality. Peterson argued he was the victim of religious discrimination but the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco disagreed as it ruled in favor of HP on Jan. 6.

HP had earlier launched a campaign to promote diversity within the work force, headed with slogan, "Diversity is Our Strength." Peterson began posting up the passages after the Palo Alto-based company posted pictures featuring gay employees. Peterson said he was singled out because other employees were allowed to display religious symbols and pro-diversity posters.

Self-described as a devout Christian, the 21-year HP ex-employee said it was his duty "to expose evil when confronted with it."

One of the Biblical passages Peterson displayed on a bin above his cubicle was taken from Leviticus 20:13 (KJV).

"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Peterson said he would agree to take down the passages if the company removed the diversity-themed posters. The company refused.

According to Judge Stephen Reinhardt, Peterson was not fired for his religous beliefs but for his violation of the company's harrassment policy.

"He violated the company's harassment policy by attempting to generate a hostile and intolerant work environment," Reinhardt said.

Reinhardt also wrote that Peterson's actions have deterred the company's efforts to "attract and retain a qualified, diverse work force, which the company reasonably views as vital to its commercial success."

Peterson, who was fired in 2001, is filing for a $1 million suit against the company.