In response to a recent op-ed written by Des Moines Register newspaper columnist Rekha Basu, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys and volunteer attorney Matthew Whitaker—a former United States Attorney in Iowa and partner of Whitaker, Hagenow, & Gustoff, LLP—take the journalist to task for promoting the same ugly intolerance she suggests about former Newton Daily News editor-in-chief Bob Eschliman.
Just last month, on Eschliman’s behalf, Liberty Institute filed an official charge of discriminationwith the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against his former employer—Shaw Media, the owner of Newton Daily News. Eschliman was fired after posting his religious views on his private blog, which he began prior to his employment at the newspaper, and where he frequently shared his personal thoughts and writing about his sincerely held religious beliefs during his off hours.
In “When free speech collides with your job,” Basu asserts that journalists with Christian views—like Eschliman—might not be able to approach stories objectively and should leave the secular world of journalism.
“She wants to exile religious newspapermen like Bob Eschliman to the religious ghetto,” Dys and Whitaker write in their “Ugly intolerance’ of religious speech” op-ed response. “The public square is reserved for the enlightened secularist; religious yokels are not welcome.”
IF YOU’RE “ZEALOUS,” KEEP YOUR FAITH TO YOURSELF?
Eschlimanis an award-winning journalist, and at issue are views he expressed this past spring in a personal blog post, where he defended his religious beliefs regarding Holy Scripture and the institution of traditional marriage. When Shaw Media learned of Eschliman’s post, they placed him on indefinite paid suspension while investigating the matter. And on May 5, 2014, Eschliman was summarily fired and immediately escorted out of the building—without being permitted to gather his personal effects from his office.
In his statement in support of his charge of discrimination, Eschliman says: “There is no question that I was fired for holding and talking about my sincerely held religious beliefs on my personal blog during my off-duty time from the comfort of my own home.”
Basu questions the trustworthiness and integrity of an editor at a mainstream newspaper who has religious views like Eschliman, and if his “language and tone force you to ask if someone that zealous might use the newspaper to advance an agenda.”
“There are religious alternatives,”Basu continues. “That’s what the editorial page editor of a mainstream American newspaper decided several decades ago. He announced he was quitting because he felt a growing inner conflict between his Christian view and the secular requirements of his job. It was an honest and honorable decision.”
YOU CAN’T FIRE PEOPLE FOR THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
“No American should have to choose between their job and their faith,” say Dys and Whitaker in their response. The attorneys say Basu is “practicing ugly intolerance to suggest that Americans like Bob take their beliefs, and the expression of them elsewhere.”
They continue: “The U.S. government created the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to combat precisely that kind of prejudice. The EEOC tracks instances of discrimination (including religious discrimination) by employers so it can deploy the Civil Rights Act to protect Americans against discrimination. And the Civil Rights Act says it is illegal discrimination in America to fire people for their religious beliefs. End of story.”
Liberty Institute is committed to seeing the legal process through as the EEOC begins an independent investigation of Eschliman’s charges of religious discrimination and retaliation against Shaw Media. If the EEOC determines that Shaw Media is guilty of religious discrimination and retaliation, it may order broad relief—including back pay, front pay, and other significant damages for the unlawful conduct of Eschliman’s former employer.
HELP DEFEND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE WORKPLACE . . . AND ACROSS AMERICA
Thankfully, the laws of the United States are on our side. But as the hostility to religion in America—and most specifically in the workplace—continues to increase, we need the commitment of friends like you to boldly stand with us and defend and restore religious liberty on behalf of clients like Bob Eschliman.
You can help fight back against the threat to our First Amendment rights as 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.