“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,” said a Fox Spokesman. “He couldn’t say those things here.”
Yes, you can express your private religious beliefs outside the workplace—and not lose your job. That’s the contention of leading religious rights attorneys who sued one of the biggest sports media companies in the world, charging the company broke the law by firing a prominent sportscaster for expressing his religious beliefs before he was even hired.
Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against Fox Sports on Monday on behalf of Craig James, former NFL player and football analyst. The lawsuit comes two years after James was fired abruptly from Fox Sports for his religious beliefs. James’ story is just one example of a disturbing trend in today’s America – the inability to speak your mind and share your beliefs without punishment.
“This is very troubling as an employee when your boss holds against you something you said about your belief system nearly eighteen months before you were recruited and hired,” James told Breitbart.com in an exclusive interview on Monday.
WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?
The SMU college football star and former Patriots running back was hired by Fox Sports as a college football analyst in August 2013. At the time, the station’s Executive Producer Mike Anastassiou called James, who had previously worked for CBS and ESPN, a “talented broadcaster” whom he anticipated would be a “tremendous asset to our coverage.” James made his first on-air appearance for Fox Sports Southwest on August 31, having no idea it would also be his last. He was fired September 1.
An interview with Fox Sport’s Senior Vice President for Public Relations in the Dallas Morning News that week revealed why. It was because of something James said – not on the air, not as an analyst, not even on the job – but over one year before he ever worked for Fox Sports.
Prior to his recruitment by Fox, James ran for an open U.S. Senate seat. In one Republican debate in early 2012, James (along with other candidates) was asked about his beliefs regarding marriage and civil unions. Citing his Christian faith, James answered that he could not support same-sex marriage.
“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,” Lou D’Ermilio told Dallas Morning News. “He couldn’t say those things here.”
The lawsuit filed by Liberty Institute points out that “James never discussed his beliefs about marriage or religion in general on the job. Nevertheless, Fox Sports informed James that Fox Sports fired him due to his beliefs about marriage, which were explicitly religious.”
“It makes the case very straightforward,” Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel of Liberty Institute told Breitbart Sports. “They admitted their reason. They were very proud of that reason.”
In February 2014, Liberty Institute filed a formal complaint against Fox Sports Southwest with the Texas Workforce Commission (“TWC”), asserting that Fox had engaged in religious discrimination against James. In March 2014, the Texas Workforce Commission issued a Charge of Discrimination against Fox Sports. Now, Liberty Institute has filed a lawsuit against the network after receiving a right to sue letter from the TWC.
BIG PICTURE – NO ONE IS SAFE IF WE DON’T FIGHT BACK
No one is immune to unlawful attacks on their religious rights at work, and James is just one example of an employee fired for expressing his religious belief while he wasn’t even on the job. Take a look at these cases:
· Dr. Eric Walsh – A respected health official terminated by the Georgia Health Department for religious beliefs expressed in his church. Liberty Institute filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and has exposed embarrassing emails showing unlawful discrimination. Liberty Institute expects to win for Dr. Walsh.
· Thomas Banks – A contractor with Ford Motor Company who was fired for respectfully expressing his religious belief in the comment section of an article emailed to employees. Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company on behalf of Banks in July.
· Bob Eschliman – An award-winning newspaper editor from Iowa fired for expressing his religious belief on his personal blog. Liberty Institute recently announced that Bob Eschliman and Shaw Media amicably resolved an employment dispute with a confidential settlement agreement with which Mr. Eschliman was pleased; Liberty Institute attorneys praised Shaw Media for recognizing religious rights in the workplace.
Employers are finding that engaging in religious discrimination is unwise from both a legal and public relations standpoint, and employees are being made aware that they have religious rights that can be defended.
Good lawyers – and even the media – will be interested when those rights are violated.
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND ACTION ON THIS TOPIC:
To learn more about freedom of religion, including religious expression regarding employers and employees, read 7 Things Every Business Person (Employers and Employees!) Should Know About Faith in the Workplace
To help provide top-notch, free-of-charge legal defense for people of faith in the workplace and others whose religious liberty rights are violated, support Liberty Institute with a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you!
About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.