Fired For Faith?

The Latest Absurdity From Craig James

Christian conservatives have anointed the movement’s newest martyr in the person of Craig James, a former Fox Sports Southwest commentator who filed in district court a religious discrimination lawsuit this week against the network.

James, a one-time collegiate and professional football player-turned-sports broadcaster whose resume recently expanded to include a disastrous bid for U.S. Senate, claims his ephemeral presence at the network was cut short by Jesus-hating executives who found his faith in poor taste.

“Fox Sports fired James because of his religious beliefs about marriage and his expression of those beliefs during a debate when James ran in the Texas Republican primary for United States Senator,” the suit alleges.

“I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty. Today, many people have lost their jobs because of their faith,” James said in a separate prepared statement. “This is America, and I intend to make sure Fox Sports knows they aren’t above the law.”

Notwithstanding Mr. James’ geographical reminder, that’s not quite the circumstance that precipitated to his termination. (The network, too, maintains the allegations are “baseless.”)

Now, it is true that Fox Sports Southwest, a regional affiliate of the national network, intended to add James to its stable of on-air talkers. It is also true that Fox Sports executives, to whom the Southwestern broadcast division reports, were plainly chafed by anti-gay comments James made in the course of his unsuccessful political run.

But the outrage borne of those comments — homosexuality is a choice and all these parade-loving gays are eroding the nation’s moral fiber, he warned — wasn’t simply restricted to the effete Hollywood set.

He couldn’t even sell his outmoded views of sexuality in a Republican primary in deep red Texas: in the contest’s final balloting, James captured fewer than four percentage points. Today, even among southern Republicans, gay-baiting is no longer reliable political currency.

According to a recent survey of GOP voters in South Carolina, fully 57 percent of respondents expressed support for federal non-discrimination legislation protecting LGBT persons in employment, housing, credit, and education when paired with exemptions for religious institutions.

James insists that the demonstration of his faith precipitated the rescinding of his contract, a function of a broader assault on persons of faith by the country’s godless elites.

Prominent social conservative advocacy groups, too, have rallied to his defense, echoing notions of a workplace war on Christianity. (On Tuesday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote that there is a “climate of Christian persecution” typified by Fox Sports’ firing of James.)

But James wasn’t axed by the network because of the expression of his faith. He was eighty-sixed because he’s radioactive: he landed ESPN, for which he previously worked, in litigation when a former college football head coach brought a defamation suit.

The irony that James and company would allege an assault in the workplace on Christians when LGBT persons living in 31 states may in fact be lawfully discriminated against on the basis of sexuality and gender identity is galling. Even O. Henry would be exasperated.

James’ Christian faith, and the free expression of it, is not besieged in America. I know, because I too am a Republican and a born-again Christian, cut from the same evangelical cloth as Craig James. I’m also gay.

Never once as a Christian in America have I felt a chilling grip of injustice in employment, education, housing, credit, or access to public spaces. But sexual minorities suffer the indignities of real, structural discrimination.

Gay and lesbian couples who fought for decades to compel their government to recognize them as full and equal citizens now face the very real prospect that a Sunday wedding might precipitate a Monday firing. This isn’t simply speculative, but sadly demonstrative. It has happened and will continue unabated until and unless all Americans, in all fifty states, are protected.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely the views of the author and do not necessarily represent his employer or clients.

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