Who’s the Victim Here?

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?

 

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5 Comments

  1. mlshatto

     /  September 26, 2013

    The employer-employee relationship is quite different from the service company-customer relationship, so I don’t think your example in the final paragraph is parallel to the situation described in the rest of the article. The question seems to me to be, is an employer justified in firing an employee whose actions/appearance/publicly stated beliefs the employer believes, rightly or wrongly, reflect badly on the employer and may/will cause harm to the employer by stimulating rejection on the part of potential customers? And I think far more information is needed before the casual reader can make a judgment in this case. Was the employee under contract, and did the firing violate the terms of that contract? What is Fox News’ anti-discrimination policy, if they have one? What was the immediate trigger of the firing? If he made the statements in 2012, why was he retained for another year before being let go? Was there an organized campaign against him, and Fox News bowed to that pressure?

    From what little can be known from this article, I would tend to agree that he was not discriminated against because of his beliefs per se, but because he publicly stated those beliefs in a way that caused negative feedback to his employer. Broadcast media are, at base, selling image. To rid themselves of a problematic employee who is damaging that image may be venal and self-serving, but not necessarily an example of religious discrimination. In the case of a controversial issue such as this one, however, the employer has to make a calculation as to whether the blowback from supporters of the fired employee becomes worse than the anticipated negative publicity had he been retained. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in coming weeks.

    Reply
    • Yes, the restaurant comparison is sorely lacking. But what about a “family” company that fired a male employee for acting effeminate? I would not think it was okay for a company to fire someone for being a member of another minority group.

      Reply
  2. AL, hope you are doing well. Just curious… have you ever been down here in Tejas?

    Reply
    • Ha! No, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Austin, so I had to drive through Texas to get there…

      Reply
      • AL, see the reason I ask is because Texas is this “at-hire” state. Like there are no unions here and the employers here can fire you for ANY REASON besides descrimination. I – no – lie.

        The Employment commission is a joke, probably run by those people who couldn’t make it in the penitentiary system…. inmates or admin. Don’t feel sorry for that wingnut, the good ol’ boys will toss him a $100,000 per year job for sucking their toes for so long. “Whose your daddy?”

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