Christopher Maximilian Sandau, 33, is by all accounts a perfectly good minor hockey coach in British Columbia. Nevertheless, he was fired recently by the North Delta Minor Hockey Association because of his support of Nazi propaganda and history. It is the latest example of an employee being terminated for their statements or associations outside of the workplace.
I have previously written about concerns that public employees are increasingly being disciplined for actions in their private lives or views or associations outside of work. We have previously seen teachers (here, <a href=”http://jonathanturley.org/2011/10/12/georgia-court-rules-against-teacher-who-lost-job-after-posting-facebook-pictures-drinking-in-europe/”>here, <a href=”http://jonathanturley.org/2009/04/02/model-teacher-english-teacher-faces-possible-discipline-over-modeling-career/”>England, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here), here, here, students (here and here) and other public employees (here and here and here) fired for their private speech or conduct, including school employees fired for posing in magazines (here), appearing on television shows in bikinis (here), or having a </</aaprior career in the adult entertainment industry (here).
In this case, there is no allegation that Sandau discussed his views on the Nazis as a coach, let alone showed prejudice in dealing with others. Rather, his Facebook site contains Nazi propaganda. The association ruled that “The posts contained extreme and objectionable material believed to be incompatible with an important purpose of our minor hockey association — to promote and encourage good citizenship” and that “[t]he NDMHA requires that our coaches present themselves as positive role models for our children athletes.”
A parent put it more succinctly: “You can’t be a Nazi and coach kids hockey.” That presents the challenging question for free speech advocates in where to draw the line.
Putting aside the difference between private and governmental action, the question is whether people should be allowed to hold views that others consider objectionable so long as they do not manifest those views at work.
Sandau’s Facebook page is described as “a shrine to Adolf Hitler and Nazism,” including a picture of the swastika with the message, “If this flag offends you you need a history lesson.” There is a great deal on the site that many of us would find objectionable, but there remains the question of whether employees should be forced to adhere to conventional historical or political views in their private lives.
Sandau insists that he is merely a “a big history buff,” though his view of history includes holocaust denial.
We have seen increasingly monitoring and punishment related to private expressions or association, particularly on social media. It is part of the “Little Brother” danger that I spoke of recently. I have little patience or interest in such views. However, I am concerned about employees feeling that they live in a fishbowl where views or associations in their private lives must meet some undefined social standard of acceptance.
It all comes down to the specific statements. Obviously, someone who is raving about racist views or people being subhuman cannot be trusted with children. So there does come a point where your public comments (even outside of your position) are material to your continuation as a coach or employee. I did find one article quoting a radio host who said that his interview with Sandau was highly disturbing and “deeply hateful.” It would be useful to see or hear the specific statements that led to the termination.
I found this observation that again reflects his general denial of allegations against the Nazis and his insistence that the Nazis were “not that evil as we’re told.”
I could not find the interview transcript or recording. The original statement of the association did not give specific on which statements on his Facebook were determinative for their decision. Putting aside the possibility that there could have been statements sufficient to force termination, there is the question of whether a person should be terminated if he (as Sandau claims) is a holocaust denier and a person with a different (if disturbing) view of history. What do you think?
Source: The Province