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NEW YORK � In an employment-discrimination action filed by a man who claims he was fired because he is gay, a Manhattan judge has ordered the defendant to answer interrogatories regarding his religious beliefs, including whether he believes homosexuality is “a sin against God” and that “gays and lesbians are doomed to eternal damnation.” Defendant Ted Doudak, president of Long Island City’s Riva Jewelry Manufacturing, contested the discovery demands, arguing that they impeded his constitutional rights to privacy and to freely exercise his religion, Christianity. Supreme Court Justice Carol Robinson Edmead disagreed and last week ordered Doudak to answer plaintiff John Fairchild’s questions.”It is the duty of every Court to guard jealously the great right and privilege of free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference, with all the power that the Court possesses, but no person should be permitted to use that right as a cloak for acts of discrimination or as a justification of practices inconsistent with the protections against invidious discrimination proscribed in New York State law,” Justice Edmead wrote in Fairchild v. Riga Jewelry Manufacturing, 101169/06. “[N]ot all burdens on religion are unconstitutional … When it appears that one’s religion is relied upon to form a basis of discrimination against a person who is a member of a protected class … an inquiry into and balancing of the competing interests favors disclosure in order to uncover evidence from which a jury may infer that the proffered reasons for plaintiff’s termination was prohibited discrimination.” According to Fairchild’s complaint, Doudak fired him the day after he learned Fairchild, a vice president in sales and marketing, is gay. Fairchild, 58, claimed he told Doudak about his sexual orientation after Doudak noticed a “lesbian magazine” on Fairchild’s desk. Fairchild said he had purchased the magazine for his daughter, who is also gay.”At this point, Mr. Doudak brought out a Bible and quoted the verses which stated that gays and lesbians were doomed to eternal damnation,” Justice Edmead wrote. Doudak fired Fairchild the following day.Shortly thereafter, Fairchild initiated the present action, claiming violations of both the city’s and the state’s employment-discrimination laws. His interrogatories contained three questions regarding Doudak’s beliefs that Doudak refused to answer � namely, whether homosexuality constituted a sin, whether gays are doomed to damnation and whether he found homosexuals to be “repulsive.” Following Doudak’s refusal to answer, Fairchild filed the instant motion to compel. Doudak set forth a series of defenses to the motion. In addition to his constitutional arguments, he contended that the queries were “confusing, overly broad in scope, as well as so vague and ambiguous as to make a meaningful response impossible.” As summed up by Justice Edmead, Doudak argued that to require the answers “would encourage a fact finder to equate certain religious beliefs, regardless of what they may be, with discriminatory action.” Justice Edmead disagreed and ordered Doudak to answer the interrogatories. “[T]he belief, whether founded in religion or not, about a person falling within a category protected under New York State discrimination laws may lead to the conclusion that the decision to terminate plaintiff was based on his sexual orientation,” she wrote. “Thus, it cannot be said a person’s ‘belief’ regarding a protected class member is irrelevant or has no bearing in establishing discrimination. Arguably, Mr. Doudak’s ‘belief’ that plaintiff’s sexual orientation constitutes a ‘sin’ or ‘will result in eternal damnation’ was related to defendant’s decision to terminate the plaintiff.” William Kaiser of Kaiser, Saurborn & Mair represented Fairchild. “I thought it was the only [possible] decision,” Fairchild said Monday of Justice Edmead’s ruling. “You can’t have civil-rights statutes protecting homosexuals and others then be put in a position where a person uses religious-freedom protections as a shield.” Mark Fass is a reporter with the New York Law Journal , a Recorder affiliate.

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