Scoot: Anti-gay rhetoric and freedom of religion
The new justification for expressing extreme anti-gay views is freedom of religion. Bob Eschliman, a news editor for the Newton Daily News in Iowa, was fired for writing what his employers considered a homophobic blog.
Bob Eschliman is a Christian who condemned a gay-friendly version of the Bible in a blog post. Eschliman’s criticism of the “Queen James Bible” website led to his firing. He is now suing the newspaper for infringing on his First Amendment rights.
In an op-ed article at FoxNews.com, Todd Starnes quotes the president of Shaw Media responded to the challenge - “The First Amendment does not eliminate responsibility and accountability for one’s words and actions.”
An attorney siding with the fired editor said, “No one should be fired for simply expressing their religious beliefs,” and the newspaper will be approached like a “pit bull going after a pork chop.”
As the battle to ban same-sex marriage based on American tradition is being lost, the new battleground seems to be invoking religious freedom to condemn gays from a position in the workplace. Complicating the issue is that fact the Eschliman made the anti-gay comments in a personal blog.
Does an employer have the right to fire an employee who makes comments in a personal blog or conversation that the employer feels reflects negatively on the company? The other question that is being asked across the country is whether or not religious freedom is legal justification for refusing service to gays and lesbians.
There should be no question that the First Amendment protects the freedom to express religious beliefs, but there is a lingering question about what society considers acceptable. Societal norms do change over time. What was acceptable in the past concerning racial discrimination is no longer acceptable today. The use of the N-word, which in past was part of everyday conversation, is no longer considered acceptable. The fear that changing norms will lead to the collapse of America is completely unfounded because this country has changed over time.
If religious freedom protects an employee making comments that are not acceptable to a growing segment of the population, then would the same religious freedom allow an employee to promote an extreme pro-Islam stance or positive views about worshipping Satan?
In most cases, extreme pro-Islamic views or promoting Satanic beliefs would be considered out-of-sync with current-day America – but in the interest of not being hypocritical – would not the same justification of religious freedom be used to demand tolerance of other those views?
For the record – I am in no way drawing any comparison between Islam and Satan – but both represent a degree of extremism in the context of America today.
Hidden in much of the criticism of gay and lesbian rights is the message that America is a Christian nation and even extreme Christian beliefs are the exception.
The beauty of the Constitution is that it allows for an evolving American society to change. Technically, extreme anti-gay views ARE protected by the First Amendment – but society maintains the right to judge how Americans use the precious right.