Mayor Kevin Faulconer has bowed to pressure from a conservative legal group that protested long-standing guidelines in the city's correspondence manual asking employees not to refer to the nation's "founding fathers," but to instead just call them "founders."
"Suggesting that our founding fathers should be referred to as 'founder' is political correctness run amok," Faulconer said in a recent statement. "We are proud of our nation's history, and there is nothing wrong with referring to the founding fathers.
"At my direction, this was removed … from the city's correspondence manual. The manual will be reviewed for other misguided examples that defy common sense, and changes will be made accordingly."
The guide was updated in conjunction with a $48,800 effort to create consistency in the city's visual image and communications. The initiative was related to Faulconer's project to refresh the city's online presence.
But the provision advising against the term "founding fathers" dates back at least to 2008. A version of the manual from that year said these options were preferred: "pioneers, colonists, patriots, forebears." By 2014, "founders" was suggested for use instead.
Craig Gustafson, a spokesman for the mayor, said final approval of the latest correspondence manual update had come from Amelia Brazell, the communications director who was replaced late last month without explanation. Brazell did not return a call seeking comment.
In its letter, the Pacific Justice Institute made reference to Monday's Presidents Day holiday, saying the new city rules abridged the free-speech rights of city employees to use common, everyday terms.
"Many Americans, including city employees, will no doubt be surprised to learn that the city considers them biased for merely mentioning ordinary words and phrases like 'the common man,' 'mankind,' 'man-made' and 'man up,' to name a few of the parade of horribles," the letter stated.
"Most alarmingly, though, is the guideline directive … that city employees should refrain from mentioning those to whom we owe our most fundamental freedoms, the founding fathers. The manual's inane attempt to recast the fathers as simply 'the founders' reaches a level of political correctness, censorship and insensitivity toward time-honored American values that is indefensible."
The letter by senior staff attorney Matthew McReynolds went on to cite 1,500 references in Supreme Court rulings to the "founding fathers," by justices of all political stripes. It called on Faulconer, a moderate Republican, to rescind the new rules.
Schroeder writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.