We have watched conservatives claim again and again that they are the victims of liberal persecution, which allows them to then embark on the almost routine practice of filing a lawsuit with the help of a Religious Right legal group or making an appeal to the media, then appearing on right-wing talk radio shows and Fox News and then, if they are really good at describing their purported persecution, landing a book deal to allow them to repeat the process anew.
So meet the next contender in the persecution Olympics: Bob Eschliman, who lost his job at a newspaper after writing a blog post on his personal website about how people must fight Satan and his minions in the evil “Gaystapo.”
The Newton Daily News fired him as editor-in-chief over the blog post, which he has since bravely removed from his website. He insists that he is the victim of having “sincerely held religious beliefs” and is now suing the newspaper, citing religious discrimination.
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes – who frequently describes the plight of persecuted Americana Christians, even when he is completely making it up or pushing a totally untrue story – has predictably picked up Eschliman's tale and turned it into a column describing the tragic saga of this good, decent Christian man losing his Constitutional rights.
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.
“If you ask me, it sounds like the Gaystapo is well on its way,” Bob wrote. “We must fight back against the enemy.”
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.”
Dys said Bob was fired for trying to “explain his belief in Holy Scripture along with the definition of marriage.”
So are Shaw Media and the Newton Daily News anti-Christian? Do they employ executives who are religious bigots? Should journalists who endorse traditional marriage simply not apply for jobs?
And then there was the matter of the content. At first glance, it appears Bob was referring to the LGBT community as “the enemy.”
But it turns out – that’s not the case at all. He said he was referring to Satan – not homosexuals.
So for what it’s worth – Shaw Media decided that Bob, a faithful husband and father, a devout and outspoken Christian man, an award-winning journalist – did not represent the values of their company.
Maybe Shaw Media ought to reconsider its values.
It’s a shame a company that exists, thanks to freedom of press, wants to take away a man’s freedom of speech.