Court Rules Public School Can Force Pro-Life Teacher to Facilitate Planned Parenthood
Contact: Alexandra Snyder, Life Legal Defense Foundation
PORTLAND, Ore., Dec. 28, 2016 /Christian Newswire
/ -- Portland teacher and well-known pro-life activist Bill Diss has received a ruling in his religious discrimination case against Portland Public Schools. Disappointingly, the court granted the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment in its entirety, stating that there were no legally significant facts in dispute for the case to go before a jury.
The case arose out of Mr. Diss' concerns about Planned Parenthood's involvement in Oregon's public schools, including his objection to hosting recruitment for a Planned Parenthood program in his classroom. Life Legal presented compelling evidence of the sincerity of Mr. Diss' religious objection to facilitating a program that violates his deeply held convictions. Unfortunately, the court ruled that for the school to force him to allow Planned Parenthood employees into his classroom to promote their program was in no way a burden on his religious beliefs or activities.
Life Legal attorneys plan to appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. "We are honored to represent Bill Diss and we will continue to fight for his First Amendment rights," said Alexandra Snyder, Executive Director for the Life Legal Defense Foundation. "The court's ruling means that teachers such as Mr. Diss should not be afforded the full protection of the Constitution. We vehemently disagree and we look forward to pursuing his case on appeal."
The decision was issued November 22, 2016 in the Federal District of Oregon by Magistrate Judge Paul Papak.
Sometimes the cost to live out one's faith is high. Sometimes it is money. Sometimes it is convenience. Sometimes life itself. And sometimes it is a career or even a livelihood.
Life Legal client Bill Diss is a husband, father, engineer and teacher who was willing to put his career on the line when asked to violate his faith. Mr. Diss' heritage is a rich history of devotion to the Catholic faith. From the time of his upbringing to rearing his own family, he has been a whole-hearted participant in church activities, from teachings, to worship, to helping the needy.
After a career in the electronics industry, Mr. Diss transitioned to teaching at the high-school and college level. Since 2002 he has taught courses such as technology, math, computers and electronics at Benson High School in the Portland, Oregon Public School system. He also taught several classes at the community college level and obtained high accolades from students, parents, and fellow teachers. His initiative and hard work attracted outside grant funding to his school and opened greater opportunities for students.
Mr. Diss became a public figure in the pro-life movement by leading the opposition to a new Planned Parenthood mega-center in downtown Portland. He tirelessly spoke about the problems Planned Parenthood would bring to Portland. He testified before local governmental bodies, organized peaceful protests against Planned Parenthood, and led boycotts of businesses that supported the abortion facility. Additionally, he served as the state director for the Culture of Life for the Knights of Columbus and founded Precious Children of Portland, a nonprofit organization that promotes the sanctity of human life and opposes abortion. Through these activities, Mr. Diss earned himself the status of "enemy number one" with the local branch of Planned Parenthood (note this is the same Planned Parenthood caught on tape giving a teenager advice
on how to access pornography, and engage in dangerous, deviant sexual acts.) Planned Parenthood went so far as to "fundraise" in the name of Bill Diss – asking for solicitations based on the length of time Mr. Diss was present outside their facility, and then sending Mr. Diss a mocking list of the donors who contributed "in his name."
Imagine yourself as a public school teacher with this background, this intense faith-driven passion to advocate for the life and purity of the next generation. Now imagine being asked to facilitate a program taught by Planned Parenthood. This is exactly the scenario in which Mr. Diss found himself in September, 2012 when Planned Parenthood employees came into his classroom to recruit for their in-school program, known as the "Teen Outreach Program" or "TOP."
When he realized who had come into his classroom, Mr. Diss asked to be excused from facilitating the program due to his religious convictions. The school refused his request. Benson's principal told him that he must "work cooperatively" with Planned Parenthood. Mr. Diss became the target of a concerted plan that ultimately resulted in his dismissal.
Throughout that school year, Mr. Diss continued to teach, but was met at every turn by undue scrutiny, lack of support, hostility and other forms of harassment. He did his best to follow the directives he was given, but did not abate his pro-life activities. He actively protested the insertion of Planned Parenthood into the public schools, resulting in an avalanche of public opposition to the program. The more actively Mr. Diss followed his calling to promote life and purity, the more hostility he faced at his teaching job. Finally, Mr. Diss was let go from work on March 19, 2012. He was initially placed on administrative leave, and eventually his contract was terminated on December 16, 2013.
Left with no alternative, Mr. Diss sought legal advice from Life Legal Defense Foundation attorneys and filed suit for religious discrimination in September, 2014. (Read the complaint
.) As his case works its way through the court system, Mr. Diss has returned to teaching. He continues to teach at local Community Colleges and has started his own teaching and tutoring business for students of any age who wish to achieve excellence in their scholastic pursuits. He continues to be an active member of the pro-life community. About Life Legal Defense Foundation
Life Legal Defense Foundation was established in 1989, and is a nonprofit organization composed of attorneys and other concerned citizens committed to giving helpless and innocent human beings of any age, and their advocates, a trained and committed voice in the courtrooms of our nation. For more information about the Life Legal Defense Foundation, visit www.lldf.org.