Can you be fired for your political opinions?

The Florida-based Christian university, also known as PBAU, says it “equips students to grow in wisdom, lead with conviction and serve God boldly.” But English professor Sam Joeckel appears to have run afoul of those principles, at least as far as the school’s administrators are concerned. 

On March 15, after a complaint from a parent of a student, the university fired Joeckel. The professor said his dean told him he was “indoctrinating” his students by incorporating aspects of racial justice into an English composition class.

Joeckel, 51, had worked at the college for more than 20 years and said he had incorporated racial-justice issues into his classes for at least a dozen years. He had always submitted his course plan to his dean, he told MarketWatch in an interview. 

He said students could write a research essay taking either side, arguing that systemic racism was either real or not real. He said he typically received essays expressing both points of view. “It’s hard to talk about racial justice without talking about politics,” he said. “I think the two are intertwined. It’s the same with gender equality. The political is personal.”

He added: “I found it to be very fulfilling and rewarding work for most of my career. However, during those last few years, it was clear to me that the university had taken a hard turn to the right, and I believe I got caught up in that right turn.” 

His firing illustrates that employees are vulnerable if they express political opinions inside or even outside of work. The First Amendment does protect private-sector employees from being fired — it applies to government entities. And while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covers six protected categories, including religion, sex and race, politics is not one of them.

This week, 700 celebrities signed an open letter, condemning Hamas. Many other people have criticized Israel’s policy on Gaza.

Some college graduates from Columbia and Harvard universities have had their job offers rescinded by law firms for criticizing Israel’s policy on Gaza in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas terrorists in Israel. But people will continue to have strong opinions on the conflict: This week, 700 celebrities signed an open letter, condemning Hamas, and demanding the release of hostages being held in Gaza.

For someone like Joeckel, an English professor, it was hard to keep the real world out of his classes. He alleges that the Christian college where he worked has increasingly embraced right-wing political views, citing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s…

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