Christian Right Suddenly Opposes Discrimination

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new Christian martyr. His name is Bob Eschliman and he was recently fired as the editor of a small Iowa newspaper after writing on his personal blog about Satan being behind the “Gaystapo” that is going to destroy…well, everything. Todd Starnes immediately got an erection and ran to his computer to publish this column.

Bob Eschliman is a Christian. He’s also a veteran news editor. And when he decided to write a column on his personal blog objecting to a gay-friendly version of the Bible, Bob was unceremoniously marched out of the Newton Daily News and shoved out the front door.

After a brief investigation, the Iowa newspaper fired Bob and then publicly castigated him in an editorial. They accused him of compromising the reputation of the newspaper. They said what he wrote resulted in the loss of public trust…

Wednesday, Bob filed formal charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Shaw Media and the Newton Daily News. Attorneys from Liberty Institute allege the newspaper and its parent company are guilty of religious discrimination and retaliation.

And based on my conversations with Liberty Institute attorneys – they’re going to go after the newspaper like a pit bull going after a pork chop.

“No one should be fired for simply expressing their religious beliefs,” Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys told me. “That’s exactly what happened to Bob. This kind of religious intolerance has no place in today’s welcoming work force. In America, it is against the law to fire an employee for simply expressing a religious belief that his or her employer may not share.”

But wait…shouldn’t a private employer be allowed to fire anyone they want for any reason? That’s what they demand in regard to gay people, that it’s tyranny to tell a business owner who they can hire and fire. And why should religion be a basis for anti-discrimination law? After all, religion is a choice. No one is born a Christian or a Muslim and people change their religious views all the time. Isn’t that their argument for why LGBT people shouldn’t get protection? But far more people change their religion than change their sexual orientation.

As always, we find that the Christian right’s rhetoric is really just special pleading. They will jettison it in a millisecond the moment it applies to them or to a situation where they don’t like the logical outcome. It’s a cover for Christian privilege, not a serious moral or legal argument.

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  • brucemartin

    You say hypocritical “special pleading” as if it’s a bad thing (to them).

  • You just know if they were a Christian newspaper, and an atheist put in an article that they didn’t want… all of a sudden, the “religious views” of the corporation would be of primary importance.

  • samgardner

    Well Ed, I agree fully that they’re disingenuous fuckwits and from a moral perspective, this is special pleading. From a legal perspective, though, it isn’t — which is why they have a good chance of winning this case while the fired homosexual employee probably loses. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t win the case.

  • bahrfeldt

    Face it, they think any election they lose is a “coup”. And the entire Internal Revenue Code and Regs cover only the 1040, mommie’s basement is heaven, grade school arithmetic is irrelevant and their Jesus said “Not my kid! Not my problem”.

  • gmacs

    Thank you, Todd Starnes, for bringing this to my attention. I pass through Newton on a regular basis. I’ll have to pick up a copy of this paper the next time I’m in.

  • Chrsitian Right Suddenly Opposes Discrimination

    Thank God the Chrsitians have come to their senses. Maybe Gnadhi’s apocryphal “I like your Chrsit, but not your Chrsitians” is finally out of date.

  • Chiroptera

    samgardner, #3: From a legal perspective, though, it isn’t — which is why they have a good chance of winning this case….

    Are you sure? Newspapers rewrite columns, refuse to print columns, and fire columnists all the time. I think that there is no assumption that the op-ed pages of a newspaper are an “open forum” and so I would have thought that anti-discrimination laws would not apply in this case.

  • D. C. Sessions

    This could be fun. I know lots of companies that have “you online comments reflect on the Company, and we’ll fire your ass if you make us look bad” policies.

    In fact, that’s one reason I never to this day mention my former employers by name. Not that they are in a position to fire me any more, but it’s a fair request.

  • dugglebogey

    So do we need to start calling homosexuality a religion for people to be able to have decent rights?

  • @ D.C. Sessions

    Good point about this being outside-of-the-office behavior that can damage the company. Every place I’ve worked at has had that kind of policy in place.

    This is similar to the case of the anti-abortion nurse not being hired by a family planning clinic, and thereby claiming discrimination on the basis of religion. The legal point that I’d love to see resolved in both of these cases is whether being anti-gay or anti-abortion is inherent to being a Christian. If you can’t separate the religion from the behavior, then they might have a case. If they are separable, I can’t see them winning. I think that they’re separable (as does anyone who isn’t a right-wing fundie.)

    Plaintiff: They fired me because I’m a Christian

    Defendant: No, we fired you because you’re an asshole

    Plaintiff: They’re the same thing!

    Judge: No, they’re not. Case dismissed.

  • cptdoom

    He was nor fired for merely expressing a religious belief, he was fired for claiming without evidence that a group of citizens are a threat to their community. Something tells me that his employer already knew of his religious beliefs, and if the paper’s HR department is like every other I’ve encountered, you don’t get to fire somebody without pretty good legal foundation and often a history of discipline issues with the employee in question. IOW thus guy was fired for a specific action he took, which is the opposite of discrimination.

  • Artor

    Sure, you can express your opinion, but you don’t get to take a stinky, steaming dump all over your employer’s product. If he’d made his comments on his own FB page, or in the letters to the editor, he’d have been fine. But posting crap like that from his position as editor tarnishes the whole newspaper and it’s carefully-managed public image. Buh-bye wingnut!

  • samgardner


    Am I sure? No. I know very little of the facts of the case, and don’t have the newspaper’s response. You’re right, there could be lots of things preventing a successful claim. Without looking at any of the real facts, there’s a difference between “my employer fired me because I’m gay” and “my employer fired me because of my religion” (and to be clear, it’s not a difference I agree morally should exist).

  • Artor,

    You need to re-read the post. He posted on his own blog, not in the paper, not as an editor of the paper. He was called out for this in the paper, but the original thing was outside.

    Your point that if it was outside, then he can’t be fired is wrong, as both D.C.Sessions and I have pointed out. Lots of companies have rules about outside behavior, especially on blogs and other social media. If you publicly take a position that harms the company’s reputation, then you can still be fired, even if you don’t do it on company time and using company resources. The Newton Daily News doesn’t want their reputation to include an editor who is an anti-gay bigot, so they fired him.

  • D. C. Sessions

    if the paper’s HR department is like every other I’ve encountered, you don’t get to fire somebody without pretty good legal foundation and often a history of discipline issues with the employee in question

    Not in an at-will State.

  • I don’t know a lot about anti-discrimination law, but I would imagine that in cases like this the plaintiff would need to establish one of two things:

    1. He was fired because of his religion (i.e. there mere fact of being a Christian), not because he said something that might have been influenced or related to his religion.

    2. The company had no compelling secular reason for objecting to what he said. In other words, they objected only because he was signaling his adherence to a particular faith.

    Absent those minimal criteria, what we have is just another case in which someone claims a religious exemption for rules that apply to everyone else. The guy could have said literally any offensive thing he wanted (all Jews should be exterminated, migrant children should be sold into slavery, the Cubs are a good team), and the paper couldn’t fire him as long as he plays the religion card. That’s absurd.

  • It’s from FOX News. How credible can it be?

  • generalfactotum

    It seems that this was the final straw for the paper’s owners, given his history. According to former employees,

    “‘It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell.” These are words that adorn Bob’s wall and words that he inspired other journalists to live by, but what he wrote on his blog wasn’t the news. Hate- filled speech serves its purpose in our society to make us aware of people with not only venomous ideals but venomous natures.

    This nature was revealed to us, a group of his former employees, on multiple occasions. As editor, he would often complain about readers bothering him, personally attack employees behind their backs and make the newsroom, a place that is supposed to be an open environment, fearful.”