‘Indianapolis Star’ Rejects Religious Discrimination Charges

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By: Joe Strupp

The Indianapolis Star issued a statement Thursday denouncing a religious discrimination lawsuit filed earlier this week by two former editorial writers, claiming the lawsuit is “wholly without merit” and its claim of hostility toward Christianity is “inaccurate and misleading.”

“Editorial positions now, as in the past, often support Christian positions on public issues,” the statement sent to E&P via e-mail Thursday read. “Any reader of The Star can see stories, editorials, columns, letters to the editor, and other items that clearly show respect for Christian views if not outright backing of those views.”

The paper cited a comment from its editorial page editor that appeared in the June 5 edition, which “noted his Christian faith.”

“The Star does not discriminate,” the paper’s statement continued. “We will vigorously defend our record against the spurious and unfounded allegations raised by this lawsuit.”

The paper also claimed that the allegations had been presented to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “which quickly dismissed each of the former employee’s cases.”

Former Star writers James Patterson and Lisa Coffey filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in federal court. It also names the Star’s parent company, Gannett Co.

The two ex-employees are seeking to be reinstated at the paper, and to be compensated for lost income, benefits, emotional distress, and unspecified punitive damages.

Patterson began work at the newspaper in 1989 and was fired May 5, the lawsuit said. Coffey resigned from the Star in October 2003 after she was relieved of her duties and was transferred to the paper’s copy desk.

The suit alleges that Star Editor Dennis Ryerson and Publisher Barbara Henry said editorials perceived as proselytizing or containing Christian overtones could not be printed in the paper. Henry could not be reached for comment and Ryerson declined comment to E&P.

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