Court upholds GM program accused of religious bias
December 30, 2005
INDIANAPOLIS – A General Motors program that allows Hispanics, blacks or lesbians – but not Christians – to organize in employee groups is not committing religious discrimination, a federal court ruled.GM’s Affinity Group diversity program does not discriminate against Christians because it treats all religions equally, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled Thursday.The court upheld a decision by a federal judge in Indianapolis, where the original lawsuit was filed by John Moranski, a born-again Christian who works at GM’s Allison Transmission plant in Indianapolis.Moranski applied in December 2002 to start an interdenominational Christian employees group as part of the diversity program, according to court documents.GM rejected the application because program guidelines do not allow Affinity Groups to promote religious positions, the documents state. Moranski filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the denial constituted illegal religious discrimination.Judge David Hamilton dismissed the suit, holding that Moranski had failed to state a claim for the court to consider.The appeals court agreed. “The allegations in Moranski’s complaint make clear that General Motors would have taken the same action had he possessed a different religious position,” Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote in opinion.Moranski argued that the guidelines treat religious groups less favorably than nonreligious groups, but the appeals court disagreed. The guidelines, the court said, prohibit the forming of Affinity Groups based on any religious position, including atheism.”Simply stated, General Motors’s Affinity Group policy treats all religious alike – it excludes them all from serving as the basis of a company-recognized Affinity Group,” Williams wrote.GM corporate diversity spokeswoman Crystal Hickman said the company was pleased with the decision but declined to elaborate.According to GM’s Web site, the company recognizes nine Affinity Groups including ones for people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, women, Hispanics, veterans, and four groups for people of African or Asian ancestry.Moranski could not be located for comment as no home telephone number was listed for him in the Indianapolis area.