17 February 2011

Oaks Rebutted, Chapter Five

Good morning all. Today I will tell you the story of The Valiant Little Pastor who spoke God's word and was persecuted for it.

Well, actually, it didn't quite happen that way. First the Oaks version, then the truth.

Oaks: A Los Angeles policeman claimed he was demoted after he spoke against the wrongfulness of homosexual conduct in the church where he is a lay pastor.

Oaks’ source for this statement in February 2011 is a single news article dated 31 July 2008 in the Washington Times, a newspaper known for its far-right conservatism.

Sergeant Eric Holyfield of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is also pastor of the Gospel Word of Life Apostolic Church. In September 2006 while serving as a “senior lead officer” of the LAPD’s community relations bureau, he gave a eulogy at the Whittier, Calif., funeral of LAPD Officer Nathaniel Warthon Jr.. Sergeant Holyfield had been Officer Warthon’s supervisor. He was not on duty as a policeman at the time, was dressed in clerical garb, and gave the eulogy at a private chapel at the invitation of Officer Warthon’s family. However, he also introduced himself as “Sergeant Eric Holyfield.” A number of senior LAPD officers attended the funeral. It wasn't held at Holyfield's own church, as Oaks claims.

During the eulogy, Sergeant Holyfield quoted a passage from 1st Corinthians that says “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” before going on to list such and talk in detail about the specific types of unrighteous people referenced: adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards and others, and to discuss their ostensible eternal prospects, e.g. men should not lie with men, women should not lie with women, doing so was sinful and anyone who did must repent or be condemned to hell’s “lake of fire,” etc.

According to his Complaint filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, Sgt. Holyfield’s supervisor contacted him shortly thereafter and said “I have received a number of complaints concerning you in regards to the funeral. People are very upset. Police officers, community members, clergy people, and as a result I’m going to have to move you.” Sgt. Holyfield was then transferred from his position, which he repeatedly described as “coveted,” and offered the choice of becoming a detective or a patrol officer.

Sgt. Holyfield filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department on June 19 2008, nearly two years after the funeral. He alleged anti-Christian discrimination, violation of his First Amendment free speech rights, and retaliation for expressing his religious views in what he characterized as a private setting with no relation to the workplace. His suit claims the LAPD demoted him and refused him further promotions.

The complaint confirms that Sg. Holyfield and his superiors disagreed over whether the funeral constituted an “extension of the workplace.” His supervisor allegedly told him the problem was the “perception” which Holyfield’s remarks had created, that “this thing is buzzing, it’s all over the department citywide,” and “has gone all the way to the top, it’s like bees to honey, it’s all over.” His supervisor indicated that in the circumstances, the funeral could have been considered an extension of the workplace. Holyfield disagreed.

Holyfield’s complaint goes on to accuse William Bratton, LAPD Chief, and essentially the entire department of systematic anti-religious discrimination and bias, of allowing “discrimination and other forms of prohibited misconduct to take place despite an official policy prohibiting such actions,” and called such conduct “willful, despicable and malicious.”

Holyfield apparently filed a separate administrative action with the LA Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which was closed on 26 June 2007.

On 12 January 2011, the LA City Attorney recommended to the City Council that the city proceed with settlement discussions to resolve Holyfield’s claims.

Oaks was partly truthful in stating that Holyfield “claimed” he was demoted for speaking against homosexual conduct. However, Oaks omits the crucial facts that the statements were made at a funeral for an LAPD officer by a police sergeant/lay pastor who introduced himself as a police sergeant, in the presence of numerous other LAPD officers. He also fails to acknowledge the impact Sgt. Holyfield’s statements had on the LAPD and that the administrative action was taken against him as a result of that effect.

Oaks also fails to acknowledge that the merits of Holyfield’s claim have not yet been decided. Having read Holyfield’s complaint, I believe he damages his own credibility by accusing the entire LAPD, from its chief on down, of systematic and intentional discrimination, misconduct, and cover-ups. This is the borderline paranoid language of someone with a hypersensitive propensity to accuse first and check facts later.

In light of the above, and the fact that no court has yet found Holyfield’s “claims” to be true, Oaks would have been wise to ignore Sgt. Holyfield’s case in his speech. It is hardly a credible example of any alleged nationwide growth of infringement on religious freedoms.

Tomorrow we turn to the Catholic Church's and the Boy Scout's issues in this area which, according to Oaks, are "too well known to require further comment." Are they really? We'll see.

1 comment:

Pablo said...

Holyfield's "eulogy" is a tragic example of arrogance and bigotry cloaked in false piety. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "eulogy" as: "a commendatory oration or writing especially in honor of one deceased." Maybe Holyfield misread "commendatory" as "condemnatory." Regardless of how he might have otherwise honored the memory of Officer Warthon, his rant about the unrighteous was insensitive and unbecoming a minister of the gospel of peace he professes to proclaim.

It appears that Holyfield and Oaks fail to understand that it wasn't just his ostensibly sincerely-held religious beliefs about homosexuality that were inappropriate. It was Sergeant Holyfield including his tirade against the "unrighteous" at a funeral and blurring of the distinction between his role as a pastor and a government official that started the firestorm of understandable outrage.

Favorite line in your post: This is the borderline paranoid language of someone with a hypersensitive propensity to accuse first and check facts later. Oaks and Holyfield are birds of a feather.