This week, Liberty Institute attorneys entered into mediation with Fox Sports Southwest regarding their firing of football analyst Craig James for statements he made before he was hired regarding his traditional religious beliefs on marriage. The mediation was requested by Texas Workforce Commission, which has issued a charge of illegal religious discrimination against Fox.
“We will continue pursuing this case to the fullest extent possible and mediation is the next step,” says Jeff Mateer, General Counsel of Liberty Institute.
According to normal procedure, the Texas Workforce Commission asked both parties to participate in mediation. If Craig James and Fox Sports Southwest are unable to come to a satisfactory agreement, the case will return to the Texas Workforce Commission. They will then further investigate and determine whether to pursue action on behalf of the state or simply allow James and Liberty Institute to proceed on their own.
JAMES FIRED FOR WRONG RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
On August 30, 2013, Fox Sports Southwest announced that they had hired Craig James as a college football analyst for their Fox College Saturday program. James is a former NFL player and a football analyst who previously worked for ESPN.
At the time, Fox Sports Southwest Executive Producer Mike Anastassiou lauded the hire, saying: “We’re excited to add Craig to the Fox Sports Southwest team. He’s a talented broadcaster who I’ve admired throughout his career. His knowledge of college football and the experience he brings as an analyst will be a tremendous asset to our coverage.”
James appeared on Fox College Saturday in his new position for the first and only time on August 31. The next day, Fox Sports Southwest General Manager Jon Heidtke informed James that he had been fired—not for his job performance, but because of a statement he had made over a year earlier when he was running for U.S. Senate and asked for his views on same-sex marriage. In response to the question, James, a Christian, had expressed his religious convictions about homosexuality and his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Fox Sports Senior Vice President for Public Relations told The Dallas Morning News, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”
James was fired though he had never spoken about his religious beliefs while on the air for either Fox or ESPN.
FOX EXEC MAKES STARTLING ADMISSIONS
James engaged Liberty Institute to represent him. After a process of sending a Demand Letter and taking pre-lawsuit discovery, depositions were conducted, including a grueling Los Angeles deposition of Eric Shanks—President of Fox Sports and named by a prominent sports publication as the most powerful man in all of sports. Shanks was the executive who gave the order to fire Craig James.
Among other revelations, Shanks testified under oath that Fox Sports misled the media at a high executive level over the controversial firing, alleging that Fox allowed one of their top public relations executives to publicly attack James’ religious views in statements to a newspaper about why they fired him.
A POSSIBLE DANGEROUS PRECEDENT FOR ALL PEOPLE OF FAITH
Liberty Institute then filed the complaint on behalf of James against Fox Sports Southwest with the Texas Workforce Commission. The Commission then issued a Charge of Discrimination against Fox Sports Southwest and began an investigation that led to the mediation.
Fox Sports Southwest’s actions violated James’ religious liberty rights protected by state and federal law. Allowing their discrimination to go unchallenged would create a dangerous precedent that would put all Americans at risk to be fired for their religious views. That is why Craig James and Liberty Institute are standing up against Fox Sports Southwest.
Dedicated to restoring religious freedom in America, Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated solely to fighting for religious liberty. We win nine out of every ten of our cases.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Please pray for us as we go through the TWC mediation and investigation process and work to defend Craig James’ rights.
In addition, please consider donating now to help us to continue to fight for the rights of people like Craig James to not be discriminated against for their sincerely held religious convictions.
Thanks to your support, we are able to help defend Americans’ whose rights are violated. When we stand, we can win.
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.