More on the Coffey-Patterson case

Dateline: Wed 07 Feb 2007

Please check out the following email from Lisa Coffey, amplifying on the lawsuit she and James Patterson have against the Indianapolis Star. She sent this explanation in response to my comments, and I believe it deserves wider distribution. She gave me her OK to publish it here.

And as you read this, consider that today's news from the slave ship Star is that Terre Dawson has gone overboard. The longtime assistant to everyone in the features department is quitting after being asked to do everything. Congratulations to Terre on her decision.

And now, here are Lisa Coffey's thoughts on the Coffey/Patterson lawsuit:

"...we believe we will win this case. More than that,

we want to set the stage for other people to come forward with their

concerns...not necessarily to us, and not necessarily to our attorney, who is not soliciting business. We just want people to stand up for themselves. The status quo at The Star should not continue. Things will change only if people will have courage and demand change.

"I realize many people haven't read our lawsuit and don't know

the chain of events (and have far more important things to do in life than read our legal complaint). But the evidence clearly shows llegally disparate treatment of James (Patterson) in many areas and clear religious animus against me. We're fighting for a principle, and we're fighting for people still at The Star, whether they realize it or not. Every week we hear from people who either have left The Star or who still are there but hate the paper with a passion. I loved working at The News and The Star pre-Gannett. Someone has to stand up for what's happening.

"If we lose this case, we've still won, because we've stood up

for what is right. When greed prevails, people are worked to death, their rights are trampled, and they're treated like chattel. It's wrong.

"It can't continue. My father was a federal mediator. I believe

in parity between management and labor. Both are critical to a company' s success. Both deserve respect and fair treatment. I don't see such equanimity prevailing at The Star.

"...the following is boring (zzz), but from my excellent performance review (the summary of which you've seen) dated May 30, 2003, from talks in June 2003 that asked me 'what it would take

moneywise" to get me to work full time in Star Editorial (Star 'can't find' related e-mails), to Dennis Ryerson's livid, outraged e-mail to me (e-mail missing, per Star) on July 24, 2003, regarding my Christian world view (which I sent to him in response to his starting the conversation by e-mailing me HIS world view... that we all make our own truth in life), to my late July 2003 sodomy series (which Dennis told the EEOC was killed because the topic wasn't 'news-relevant,' despite the fact I wrote it in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's 6:3 decision (June 26, 2003, Lawrence v. Texas) nullifying all state sodomy bans, to my Oct. 10, 2003 transfer to the copy desk because there was "no need for me there, (editorial)" despite I was in charge of the election endorsement process and we already were short-staffed with Andrea Neal's departure on sabbatical, to the full-time hiring of Beth Murphy and RiShawn Biddle in the department within eight months (Beth's hiring was nearly immediate), along with the Oct. 13, 2003, request that Star Editorial copy editor Jane Lichtenberg start earning how to write editorials and the immediate request that freelance editorial writer David Rohn start doubling his weekly production (from 2-3/week to 5/week), the 'timeline of events' evidence is clear that something really ticked Dennis off and prompted him to boot me out of Star Editorial.

"That's just a small bit of our case. We have plenty more.

"....just to set the record straight, James and I never claimed that The Star lacks the right to publish whatever it wishes. We claimed, and continue to claim, that the adverse actions against us (transferring me to the copy desk and firing James) were based upon religious (and, in James' case, other) animus, which we believe the overwhelming evidence will show.

"Our discussion of Star management's views on certain topics (homosexuality, etc.) has been to help establish the bases of their animus. We agree with The Star, and always have, that its top managers (publisher/editor) have the right to dictate content in the paper.

"As you know, we've filed a federal lawsuit. Title VII federal law supersedes state law, including Indiana 'employment at will' law. If state 'employment at will' statutes governed the workplace, Title VII, ADA and other federal laws protecting employees would be meaningless.

"From case law:

'[G]enerally applicable laws do not offend the First Amendment

simply because their enforcement against the press has incidental

effects on its ability to gather and report the news."[1] This application of laws to newspapers must also include the Title VII prohibition against discrimination. "[T]he publisher of a newspaper has no special immunity from the application of general laws. He has no special privilege to invade the rights and liberties of others.'[2]

[1] Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., 501 U.S. 663, 669 (1991).

[2] Associated Press v. NLRB, 301 U.S. 103, 132-33 (1937)."

Thank you, Lisa, for allowing your comments to be aired here. I've always wished you both the best in this battle.

If anyone else wants to chime in, you can contact Lisa or James directly. Here's the earlier info Lisa sent:

"Former Star staffers are welcome to contact James Patterson (317-201-7653 / jimjamjp@earthlink.net)">pjimjamjp@earthlink.net) or Lisa Coffey (317-226-9709 / LisaCoffey01@aol.com) to discuss their views regarding current issues/

concerns/instances of alleged age, race or religious discrimination at The Star."

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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