Update on the Lisa Coffey/James Patterson lawsuit against the Star; digging up the old bones

Dateline: Wed 20 Jun 2007

I contacted Lisa Coffey last week to check on the progress of the lawsuit she and James Patterson filed against their former employer, Gannett, alleging workplace religious discrimination and other violations. Everything is progressing, she said. The Star's attorneys have filed a summary judgment motion (in an effort to have the case dismissed on the basis that it is without merit). But Coffey is confident the newspaper's motion will be dismissed, and the case will go to a jury trial in January.

That should make for some fascinating coverage by 307 N. Penn.

In an email, Coffey brought up the topic that kicked off the firestorm that resulted in her being moved from the editorial department and ultimately leaving the paper. The hot potato was a column/series she was writing about HIV transmission and sodomy -- not, as she notes, homosexuality, but the sex act of sodomy. The column never ran; an alert reporter saw it in the system before it was printed and brought it to the attention of exec editor Dennis Ryerson, who killed it. As I recall, his reasoning was that he didn't want to alienate gay readers, that he wanted the editorial pages to be inclusive rather than strike a discriminatory or judgmental tone. He believed that a column series looking at the science of sodomy wasn't fair-minded or appropriate.

Coffey was reminded of all this, she says, when she saw a wire story in the Star May 24 (Page A12 of the print version),discussing the Food and Drug Administration's continued ban on gay men donating blood.

Here is what she said...

"I know it's not a pretty topic, but I hope you'll consider posting the following information on your Web site, along with the fda.gov link, if you think it would be relevant and helpful to your many readers.

"Late last month, The Star ran an AP story about the Food and Drug

Administration's continued ban on gay men donating blood. The story's thrust was not the hard data behind the FDA's decision but the message that gays were again suffering discrimination...To AP's credit, it at least provided a link to the FDA's Web site page citing the agency's rationale for continuing the blood donation ban. In the story I downloaded from indystar.com last month, The Star had dropped the fda.gov page link reference for some reason." (the link was also dropped from the print version, Coffey reports).

"The generosity and civic-mindedness of the many gay men who want

to donate blood are admirable, and many people, not just gay men, may

dispute the idea that gay men are at special risk for various diseases. But the FDA's rationale deserves to be heard," says Coffey.

Here is the link:


Coffey concludes, "...the main goal is to let readers know the FDA's reasoning behind the ban and why its revocation would seriously jeopardize the integrity of the nation's blood supply. The Star has failed miserably in its obligation to present the FDA's rationale on the subject;I consider its conduct in this case, and others, inexcusable."

I agree with Coffey; the paper was negligent in not including the FDA link. But am I surprised? No.

Oh, and on another note re: the case: Barbara Henry and Dennis Ryerson both recently filed statements with the court asserting that they are Christians. That clarifies things. Now we know this is just another dispute within the feisty Christian family. Thank God.


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