Last week the Washington Post reported, â€œDuring a heated exchange with another commenter, Guy Estergall, a 26-year veteran of the Cleveland Fire Department, wrote that the â€œoverwhelming majority of pedophiles are homosexualsâ€ before calling on the man to get psychiatric help â€œto become normal.â€
The smashup was in reference to a Facebook pageÂ showing a tearful teenage boy worrying about being gay.
Estergall wrote, â€œthe 13-year-old boy â€œneeds psychiatric helpâ€ and is â€œdelusional.â€
â€œCleveland fire spokesman Larry Gray saidÂ that an investigation is underway to determine if Estergall violated the departmentâ€™s social media policy.â€
The Post quoted Estergall, â€œâ€œWeâ€™re all entitled to our own opinions,â€ he said. â€œA witch-hunt is now being formed against me by some individuals to use the media and my employer to try and punish me because they didnâ€™t like what I said. Half the world believes what I said, that homosexuality is a mental illness.â€
A Job Connection?
Just what is the connection between spewing vitriol, words and images, on social media, and oneâ€™s employment?
And, if there is a connection is it over ridden by free speech concerns?
The issue is a moving target.
Our democratic and secular society has been on a march of inclusiveness since at least 1964.
Before that blacks could be lynched with impunity and there was no LGBT â€œcommunityâ€, per se.
Not so many years ago, being â€œoutâ€ required three strikes.
Today, words and images that would have been either accepted or commonplace are viewed as at least odd and often vicious.
The advance of civil rights for people of color and sexual minorities are largely responsible for the reversal where â€œniggerâ€ â€œspickâ€ and â€œfaggotâ€ have become clarions of hate rather than kitchen table banter.
Those civil rights now often include extremely important workplace protections which can put social media and employment rights on a collision course if they slop over into the firehouse.
But What If They Donâ€™t?
Can someone express themselves in the manner ofÂ Guy Estergall and work effectively with gays and lesbians?
â€œFire talkâ€ is rife with exclamations that all must be the best and super qualified, gore-tex clad super heroes, so I doubt if Mr. Estergall would work happily alongside someone he felt was mentally ill or not â€œnormalâ€ whatever that is.
But, the presumption would be yes until otherwise noted.
â€œWithâ€ versus â€œForâ€
I can work â€œwithâ€ just about anybody but I wouldnâ€™t want to work â€œforâ€ someone who viewed gays as mentally ill.
Assigning authority implies power over others and such views as expressed by Estergall, et al, prove their inability to lead in a 21st century fire service.
They can hold their increasingly anachronisitic views, but never from a position of power, not even for a shift as an acting officer.
â€œSHAREâ€ to End Ignorance and Intolerance.