Former Fox Sports commentator Craig James is suing Fox in Texas court on claims he was fired in 2013 over his religious beliefs. James spent one day as a college football analyst before being let go. Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer says there was no reason for Fox to push him out.
With twenty-four years of experience as a sports broadcaster, Craig James was eminently qualified for his job at Fox Sports. He wasn’t fired over his performance – he was fired because he talked about his faith outside the workplace even before he was hired. By firing James, Fox is essentially putting all of its employees on notice, telling them that if they talk about their faith at any time, they can be fired. That is the very definition of unlawful religious discrimination. It’s the ultimate intolerance and we will not stand by and allow Fox’s actions to go unpunished.
Mateer is talking about James’ comments on homosexuality and gay marriage in a 2012 Republican primary Senate debate in Texas.
People choose to be gay… I think its a choice, I do. Same sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, that’s done. And God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions.
Fox told The Dallas Morning News they fired James for being polarizing and for his role in getting former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach fired in 2009.
As we have previously stated, Craig James is a polarizing figure in the college sports community, and the decision not to use him in our college football coverage was based on the perception that he abused a previous on-air position to further a personal agenda. The decision had nothing to do with Mr. James’ religious beliefs, and we did not discriminate against Mr. James in any way. The allegations are baseless, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them.
For those wondering, James’ son was put in an electrical closet for allegedly three hours after suffering a concussion. Cell phone video went up on YouTube and was given to WFAA of the closet. Some speculated it was James’ family who leaked the video, but WFAA said it was a source close to the James family. Leach ended up suing ESPN and losing.
Fox’s statement isn’t holding any water, because of comments made by a Fox Sports Southwest spokesperson after James’ one-day stint in 2013. The spokesperson said James’ 2012 comments on gay marriage were why he was let go.
We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.
James has a pretty solid case because of that statement. Here’s what the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act says:
SUBCHAPTER B. UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES
Sec. 21.051. DISCRIMINATION BY EMPLOYER. An employer commits an unlawful employment practice if because of race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age the employer:
(1) fails or refuses to hire an individual, discharges an individual, or discriminates in any other manner against an individual in connection with compensation or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment…
So here’s the question: should a private company be sued for firing someone because of their religious beliefs? Even though at-will employment is in Texas, it’s questionable whether that applies because of the FSSW spokesperson’s statement. State and federal law says Fox can be sued, but should the law exist? Fox decided it didn’t want to be associated with James because of his gay marriage statements.
In one sense, it’s a type of “denial of services” case; Fox decided it didn’t want to pay for James’ services. How is this different from the Oregon bakery case? Sweet Cakes denied services to a gay couple because they didn’t want to bake them a wedding cake. The federal government thinks so and has sued companies for violating the religious beliefs of workers. But the Right was up in arms over the judgment issued by Oregon against the baker, while the Left cackled with glee. Fox is essentially doing the same thing as Sweet Cakes did, only this time it’s to someone who is a conservative Christian. Should they be legally punished for deciding they didn’t want to work with James because of his gay marriage stance? Would the Right leap to Fox’s defense if they decided to fire a Muslim commentator for making similar statements about gay marriage? These are questions which people need to take a deep look at before immediately rushing to criticize (or defend) a business.
Religious liberty is a very important foundation of America. But the Constitution says the government shouldn’t make laws restricting the free exercise of religious beliefs. It says nothing about what individual companies can do. Are both the Right and the Left being hypocritical because they get mad when someone who has their beliefs gets denied service?