My column in WORLD’s Nov. 2 issue was about a crucial religious liberty battle now being fought out in both a court of law and the court of public opinion. Fox Sports in September fired football analyst Craig James, a former NFL Offensive Player of the Year, after only one week on the job. Company executives had learned that James, while unsuccessfully running for the U.S. Senate last year, had expressed a Bible-based opposition to same-sex marriage.
James is a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Many readers expressed interest in the situation, so here’s an opportunity to hear about it from James himself, whom I interviewed in front of Patrick Henry College students.
Tell us about your background and your faith. I was born in a Texas farming community and learned how to pick tomatoes at a very young age. I also saw love for the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through my grandparents and my parents. I’ve tried to live according to His desires for us. It’s been lately, in my life, that I’ve come to understand more about my purpose in life—to share with people that there is good news, and that’s Jesus.
What is the statement you made while running for the Senate that led Fox Sports to fire you? I said marriage is between a man and a woman. I talked a little bit more about the moral fiber of our country, that we’re on a slide and we need people who will stand boldly for their beliefs.
You expressed yourself civilly—no slurs or bad language—but you referred to homosexuality as a choice. We all are born with sinful tendencies, and have to choose whether to act on those tendencies. I choose not to act in adultery. God will judge me for my actions.
You’re opposed to both homosexuality and heterosexual adultery. There was an Adam and an Eve. I go back to all of the Book, not part of it.
In business and in politics, you’ve hired gay guys. I hire them based on qualifications. I’ll leave it up to God to judge them for their choices.
Did you apply to Fox Sports for a job? They called and heard I had an interest in getting back into broadcasting. They said, “We’ve got a show for you on Saturday night, a one-hour program, and we’d love to have you.” I said, “I’d love to do it.” They issued a very flattering, complimentary press release, talking about my credentials, saying I’d be an asset to their coverage. I went on the air the next night, did my one-hour show. On Sunday evening, I received a phone call.
What did the caller say? “Your services are no longer needed. We’re not going to continue with this.” I’m sitting there thinking, “This has to be a joke.” It wasn’t a joke. Within hours I found out that a Fox Sports spokesperson had told the Dallas Morning News that, basically, my biblical belief in the definition of marriage was not going to fly at Fox Sports.
Let me make sure we all understand this. You didn’t suddenly go into an on-the-air tirade about gays. This was something you voiced during a political campaign, upholding a position held by 76 percent of Texans who voted in 2005 on a state constitutional amendment defining marriage—which means if you are unemployable in a position for which you are well-suited, then three out of four Texans should also be unemployable. Even Gov. Perry would have a hard time selling that.
You didn’t say God is on the side of the Dallas Cowboys? He obviously is not right now!
A liberal, pro-gay writer on The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf, wrote, “If Craig James had said he would never vote to give a gay athlete the Heisman Trophy, or Player of the Game honors, because to do so would elevate a sinner, then that would be grounds to refrain from hiring him.” You didn’t do that? No.
But you’ve been made unemployable in your profession. Thank you very much for that reminder. My wife reminded me of that, too! But I go back to my faith: I have peace on this because I know God’s in control. Still, I’m not going to be quiet. I’m going to tell the truth. A gay activist in an email told me, “It’s dead wrong what happened to you.” He said, “The gay community has got to stop bullying people who have a different opinion. We’ve got to respect their ability to hold what’s dear to their hearts. We want that same tolerance coming our way.”
The liberal writer, Conor Friedersdorf, understands that, so he wrote about your case, “to not hire someone for prior remarks made amidst civic debate, and that are indistinguishable from the position taken by almost half of all Americans, this is unjust.” Are you getting support from any other liberals? We hope to wake up people to the double standard. Keith Olbermann can have a position, and even say it on the air, and he’s OK, but I don’t have a right to biblical beliefs. What we can’t have in this country is a point where a corporation feels empowered to punish those who have a biblical belief. That’s the chilling effect of this moment in my life.
If folks want to register their concern with Fox Sports, how should they do that? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve tried to say, “Look, reinstate me. Put me back on the air.” It’s unlikely that will happen, but we’re trying to pressure them to admit they made a mistake! I really hope that 100 years from now Americans will look back and say our time was a fork in the road, and those who enjoyed and appreciated religious liberty and the First Amendment, fought for it. That would be a great moment for our country.
I was reading last night a novel set in Berlin during Hitler’s years. One character makes an honest comment, and the person to whom he’s speaking smiles a bit and says, “What you said just now: You reminded me of something. I was remembering what it was like to speak without looking over your shoulder.” If Fox Sports’ firing of you stands, it will be an awful precedent. We’ll lose freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Some people who are following this have told me how they’re quiet in their workplace, and worried that if their boss finds out about their stand on an issue, he’ll hold it against them. If this isn’t challenged and made right, people will be looking over their shoulders. That’s not right. That’s not America.
Listen to Marvin Olasky interview Craig James on The World and Everything in It:
Watch Marvin Olasky’s complete interview with Craig James: