Over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf writes about the firing of former NCAA analyst Craig James for comments made during his 2012 Senate run. After his brief and unsuccessful foray into the political world Fox Sports News Southwest hired the former ESPN alumni only to fire him after just one appearance. Conor disagrees with their decision:
A network would be justified in firing a sports broadcaster for expressing controversial moral or political views during an entertainment telecast that had nothing to do with the subject. But to not hire someone for prior remarks made amid civic debate, and that are indistinguishable from the position taken by almost half of all Americans at the time?
That action strengthens a suboptimal norm, even if Fox Sports is acting within its legal rights.
America is always going to be a diverse country that encompasses people with very different political views and moral values. In order to get along, despite our differences, it is useful to debate divisive issues openly through the civic process, and to establish spheres where what divides us is set aside as irrelevant. Fox Sports’s actions undermine society’s ability to do both things
I tend to agree with this point. It would be one thing if James had made a roaring inflammatory remark like the infamous “You’re a sodomite. I hope you get AIDS and die.” comment made by then MSNBC talk show host Michael Savage. But James’ statement that homosexuals will have to “answer to the Lord for their actions” isn’t even in the same solar plane of existence.
The first amendment arguments against the firing of James are obvious. This is America, a country where individuals have the right to express their personal beliefs in an open and civilized manner regardless of how unpopular they might be. To that extent, every free speech organization should be rallying around James and pressuring Fox Sports to reconsider their decision. (ACLU are you listening?)
The larger first amendment issues arising from this incident are even more alarming. Christians…well let’s be honest…Christian CONSERVATIVES… have often complained about a so called “War on Christianity” being waged in America. While most of their claims of discrimination are plain and utter BS, our attempts to ensure political equality has on occasion lead to pointless over reaching. There’s enough real and significant issues of discrimination occurring in America that we don’t need to persecute schools who say “Merry Christmas” or fire football analysts for expressing their beliefs off air. The right to religious freedom is not the right to be free of religion. Religious freedom guarantees every American the right to exercise their religious beliefs, or lack there of, as long as those beliefs are not forced upon those around them. Defenders of religious freedom would be best served to keep that in mind before the public discussion shifts focus from equality for the minority to discrimination against the majority.