Court upholds GM
program accused of religious bias

A General Motors
Corp. program that allows Hispanics, blacks, or
gays—but not Christians—to organize in
employee groups is not committing religious
discrimination, a federal court ruled. GM's Affinity Group
diversity program does not discriminate against
Christians because it treats all religions equally,
the seventh circuit U.S. court of appeals in Chicago
ruled Thursday.
The court upheld a decision by a federal judge
in Indianapolis, where the original lawsuit was filed
by John Moranski, a born-again Christian who works at
GM's Allison Transmission plant in Indianapolis. Moranski
applied in December 2002 to start an interdenominational
Christian employees group as part of the diversity
program, according to court documents.
GM rejected the application because program
guidelines do not allow Affinity Groups to promote
religious positions, the documents state. Moranski
filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission and then filed a federal lawsuit claiming that
the denial constituted illegal religious discrimination.
Judge David Hamilton dismissed the suit, holding
that Moranski had failed to state a claim for the
court to consider. The appeals court agreed. "The
allegations in Moranski's complaint make clear that General
Motors would have taken the same action had he possessed a
different religious position," Judge Ann Claire
Williams wrote in the opinion.
Moranski argued that the guidelines treat
religious groups less favorably than nonreligious
groups, but the appeals court disagreed. The
guidelines, the court said, prohibit the forming of Affinity
Groups based on any religious position, including
atheism. "Simply stated, General Motors's Affinity
Group policy treats all religions alike—it excludes
them all from serving as the basis of a company-recognized
Affinity Group," Williams wrote.
GM corporate diversity spokeswoman Crystal
Hickman said the company was pleased with the decision
but declined to elaborate.
According to GM's Web site, the company
recognizes nine Affinity Groups, including ones for
people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, women,
Hispanics, veterans, and four groups for people of African
or Asian ancestry.
Moranski could not be located for comment as no
home telephone number was listed for him in the
Indianapolis area. (AP)

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