Is Craig James a bigot? Or a victim of religious persecution? Or both?
Can we liberals allow discrimination against bigots? Or must we fight against discrimination in all its forms?
James has been in the news lately. He was fired from his job as a Fox News sportscaster. The reason? In his run for the US Senate in 2012, James insisted that he would not support same-sex marriage. Such marriages, James explained, were against his religion.
The Family Research Council, an organization of conservative religious activists, called the firing an example of religious persecution. “What Fox Sports did,” the FRC warned,
is much worse than censorship. What Fox Sports is doing is demanding conformity on issues that aren’t even relevant to James’s job — then threatening his livelihood when he refuses. That’s not your garden variety viewpoint discrimination; it’s ideological terrorism. And it has to stop.
From the other side of the issue, the Texas Freedom Network defended the firing. Intelligent people of goodwill can disagree, the TFN argued, if this is a case of religious discrimination. But whatever we call it, the TFN blogged, it tells us something about the changing cultural climate. “it’s worth considering,” the TFN pointed out,
that Fox Sports didn’t fire James because of his religious beliefs. They fired him because they thought his intolerant public statements about gay people would hurt their company.
I generally agree with the folks at the TFN. However, this seems to me to be a very sketchy argument. Would we defend a restaurant owner who refused service to ethnic minorities because he or she worried having them in the restaurant would hurt business?