It will take a long drive to reach the end zone, but Craig James, a former NFL Offensive Player of the Year, has gained a first down in his attempt to show that he lost his job as a football analyst because of religious discrimination.
The Texas Workforce Commission last Thursday issued a charge of discrimination against Fox Sports Southwest for firing James, who opposes same-sex marriage. The state agency now begins an investigation that represents “a serious step toward holding Fox Sports accountable for violating the law and the religious liberty of Craig James,” according to Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute, which filed the complaint on behalf of James.
The fact pattern is clear. Fox Sports last September fired James one week after hiring him, with a Fox Sports spokesperson saying, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department.” James, though, had not made those statements while analyzing football, and he told me, “I have never discussed my faith while broadcasting and it has never been an issue until now.”
Fox Sports is defending its position by saying James “is a polarizing figure in the college sports community.” (Texas Tech fans don’t like James because he was instrumental in getting popular Red Raiders coach Mike Leach fired four years ago after Leach inhumanely castigated and punished James’ son, who had suffered a concussion.) That’s a post-firing rationalization, especially since polarizers (for example, Howard Cosell) can bring high ratings.
James voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage while unsuccessfully running for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas. If he is unemployable for taking that position, so are millions of Christians, and the three-out-of-four Texans who voted in 2005 to amend the state constitution to keep same-sex unions from being defined as marriage.
Last fall I interviewed James, a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Here are excerpts, starting with a question about what James had said during his Senate campaign:
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.
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. … 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.”