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San Francisco-A former Hewlett-Packard Co. employee whose silent protest of a workplace-sensitivity campaign earned him a trip to the unemployment line can’t have his job back, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week. Richard Peterson, described as a 55-year-old devout Christian, objected to one of a series of posters posted at a 3,800-employee office in Boise, Idaho. To protest a poster highlighting a gay employee, the tech support specialist printed out controversial passages of biblical scripture and fixed them to the overhead bin in his cubicle. When he refused to take them down, he was fired. “While Hewlett-Packard must tolerate some degree of employee discomfort in the process of taking steps required by Title VII to correct the wrongs of discrimination, it need not accept the burdens that would result from allowing actions that demean or degrade, or are designed to demean or degrade, members of its work force,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote. Reinhardt was joined by judges William Fletcher and Ronald Gould. Peterson’s lawyer, Christ Troupis of Boise’s Troupis & Summer, said no one complained about the posted passages, nor did Peterson confront any co-workers. “The record is that nobody was offended at all,” Troupis said. “If something like that had come up, we’d have a different case.” Troupis said he will petition for U.S. Supreme Court review, hoping to add Peterson v. Hewlett-Packard, No. 04 C.D.O.S. 104, to the court’s docket on religion in public life. The court has heard arguments this term about whether a state can deny scholarships for religious education. Later this year, it will review the 9th Circuit’s decision that having schoolchildren recite “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the establishment clause. Peterson’s signs quoted passages from Corinthians and Isaiah that some interpret as anti-gay. He was confronted by his superiors but offered to remove the passages only if the company took down the diversity poster.

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