STOCKTON, Calif. — A Christian legal organization is poised to file a lawsuit against a California hospital after officials continue to ban the use of the phrase ‘God bless America’ in email signatures.
As previously reported, Dameron Hospital employee Boots Hawks was called into his supervisor’s office last November and asked to remove the phrase from his email, which is one of three that he posts with his signature. “Excuses only satisfy the person making them” and “Change is either induced by inspiration or desperation” are also displayed on each email.
“I believe in America, and I believe in God so strongly,” Hawks told local television station KCRA. “And I believe that America needs a blessing.”
While Hawks complied with the directive, he also told his supervisor that he wanted to consult with an attorney about his rights.
Much to his surprise, Hawks was put on leave for “insubordination.” He returned to work this Wednesday to find that the combination on his lock had been changed and his computer password had been suspended.
As Hawks had contacted the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the organization sent a letter to the hospital, demanding that it recant its actions. It noted that Hawks has been on staff for ten years and was once named “Employee of the Year.” He had served twenty years in the Army, earning the rank of Sergeant First Class.
As reports of the incident broke nationwide, the hospital partially recanted the reasons for putting Hawks on leave. A Dameron human resource official advised PJI that Mr. Hawks was no longer considered to be insubordinate, but stated that he may have been “disrespectful.” The hospital agreed to restore the lost pay from the time when Hawks was on leave, and advised that no punishment would be implied.
However, Dameron officials continued to insist that Mr. Hawks refrain from including “God bless America” in his email signature. As it has not rescinded the ban months following the incident, attorneys with PJI state that they have filed a formal charge of discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. A complaint was also filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Christian legal organization is additionally pursuing litigation, expecting to receive a right-to-sue notice at any time.
The group says that it would like to solve the matter out of court, but has been “surprised by Dameron Hospital’s complete lack of interest.”
“Over the last two months we have given Dameron Hospital multiple opportunities to rescind their ban on patriotic speech,” PJI President Brad Dacus said in a recent news release. “Inexplicably, they have chosen to ignore our efforts to resolve this conflict peacefully, and their window of opportunity is quickly closing.”
“It is both wrong and illegal to single out and silence the patriotic speech of a veteran who served his country honorably for more than twenty years,” he continued. “We intend to do whatever is necessary to vindicate his rights.”