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.
Bob ran afoul of the newspaper’s bosses by daring to criticize the “Queen James Bible” website. The website sells copies of God’s Word that have been rewritten with a gay friendly slant.
“If you ask me, it sounds like the Gaystapo is well on its way,” Bob wrote. “We must fight back against the enemy.”
Bob wrote those words on April 28. Two days later he was ordered into his boss’s office and placed on indefinite paid leave. On May 5 he was fired.
The following day, John Rung, the president of Shaw Media, penned an editorial ruthlessly attacking Bob.
“The First Amendment does not eliminate responsibility and accountability for one’s words and actions,” Rung wrote. “While he [Bob] is entitled to his opinion, his public airing of it compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it.”
I’d say what’s left of the newspaper’s reputation is about to be severely tarnished.
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.”
“They need to be reminded that people of faith can be employed in public and they do not need to be – as the Eleventh Circuit put it – banished to the broom closets and whispers in the hallways,” Dys told me. “That’s not what religious liberty is about.”
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