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County Employee Fired for Expressing Christian Views on His Own Time, Refusing Woke 'Diversity' Punishment

10-10-2022

A Christian who was employed by Miami-Dade County in Florida was reportedly fired for expressing his opinion online. Now he has filed a federal lawsuit against the county for its "use of its dangerous 'mute' button to silence religious speech," according to court documents. 

John Labriola worked as a media aide for the Board of County Commissioners of Miami-Dade County from 2013 to 2021. According to the 28-page lawsuit filed on his behalf by attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a non-profit legal defense organization, he wrote an op-ed after-hours on his private time, as a private citizen, and published it in a privately-owned obscure publication. 

Labriola did not identify his employer, job function, job title, job duties, or the fact or nature of his employment anywhere in the op-ed. 

In the article, he criticized the Equality Act's promotion of abortion on demand, homosexual "marriage," and transgenderism. He also criticized its threat to women's sports and privacy, parental rights, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression, noting that it "would be used as a battering ram to prosecute and abolish the free speech rights of anyone who dares defy the left's sexual and gender ideologies."

After his supervisors at the county became aware of the op-ed, Labriola was suspended without pay for three days and ordered to attend a punitive extra "diversity" training program.  He refused to go through the program, claiming it would have required him to apologize for his beliefs and to refer to people who identify as transgender by their "preferred pronouns", which do not correspond to their biological sex – speech to which Labriola has religious objections.

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"For daring to exercise his First Amendment rights as a private citizen, Mr. Labriola was suspended, ordered to undergo extra (and punitive) training, and fired," according to the lawsuit. "The suspension, training order, and firing violated Mr. Labriola's rights of speech, religion, and press, and the County's own Implementing Order 7-45."

"Without question, Miami-Dade County violated the First Amendment," said Brad Dacus, president of PJI.  

After he was let go, the County's HR department admitted that it "did not find any evidence to establish that {Mr. Labriola} was engaged in any harassing or discriminatory behavior based on any protected characteristic within the workplace" after it interviewed all of his coworkers.

"PJI filed this complaint on Mr. Labriola's behalf to protect his and others' constitutional rights to free speech, the free exercise of religion, and free press," said attorney Alexander Bumbu. "The County's actions jeopardize the core constitutional rights of every County employee by threatening them with termination for simply exercising those rights."

"The County's actions also undermine religious tolerance and ignore the fact that tolerance is a two-way street. Mr. Labriola did not forfeit the fundamental First Amendment rights that he holds as a private citizen by virtue of accepting public employment," Bumbu continued. "Thankfully, our Constitution protects the freedom to express even those thoughts that others hate."

PJI filed John E. Labriola v. Miami-Dade County in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Oct. 3. The lawsuit names the Board of County Commissioners of Miami-Dade Country, and Jose "Pepe" Diaz, the board chairperson, as defendants. 

CBN News has contacted the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners for comment.  We'll add it here if we hear back. 

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