US: Newspaper silences staff who support same-sex marriage

The newspaper has issued a ban on all same sex wedding announcements following the Supreme Court ruling and told employees to keep their opinions to themselves or quit.

Clay Foster, publisher of Mississippi’s third-largest newspaper, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, who wrote a column attacking the Supreme Court’s decision to legalise gay marriage, sent an email informing other managers not to accept wedding announcements of same-sex couples under any circumstances.

The email explains the company’s policy to stifling speech, and states than any employee uncomfortable with discriminating against same-sex couples were free to leave the company, reports The Huffington Post.

Foster’s column – published June 30 – attempts to justify his anti LGBT approach and explain his reasons for not publishing same-sex wedding announcements.

“On those occasions when government leaders make decisions that are contrary to God’s Word and expect us to do things contrary to God’s will, we must obey and honour God instead as Peter and the apostles did in Acts 5:29,” Foster wrote.

Charlotte Wolfe, the company’s associate publisher, sent a company wide email two days before Foster’s column published, warning employees of the newspaper’s future stance on same-sex marriage.

“… Journal, Inc. has made a policy decision to not accept wedding/engagement notices from same sex couples,” Wolfe wrote.

The associate publisher goes on to describe expectations of employees, warning them not to voice support of gay marriage when away from work – especially on social media.

“A decision has been made that the Journal’s editorial board will not take a position on the recent Supreme Court decision… Because the company is not taking an editorial position on this, we need to follow suit, and not take positions editorially or in personal columns.”

Wolfe argues that the measures are to ensure employees report the news objectively – whilst enforcing the subjective opinion of senior editorial staff.

“In addition, we need to remember that we and our employees all are representatives of Journal, Inc. 24/7. Our job is to report the news objectively and we can’t do this if we’re also on social media sharing our opinions.

“We have a right to our opinions, but because we are so tightly connected to our newspaper products, we don’t need to vocalize this on social media … whether we realize it or not, people see that as the paper’s opinion.”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage across the United States last month, the state of Mississippi threatened to refuse marriage licenses to anyone, regardless of their sexuality – to stop gay people from marrying.

And last week, a clerk in Grenada county, Mississippi, has resigned rather than issue same-sex marriage licences.

In her resignation later, Linda Barnette said the Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage across the United States: “violates my core values as a Christian.”