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Religious Freedom or hate speech.

  • By: William W. Bloch
  • Published: November 3, 2020

Religious Freedom, Free Speech, or Hate Speech?  Who is Right?

A fired editor-in-chief slapped an Iowa newspaper with a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint Wednesday, claiming he had been terminated for airing his Christian beliefs in a personal blog post that reportedly accused the “Gaystapo” of trying to change the Bible.

Bob Eschliman, who lodged discrimination and retaliation allegations against the Newton Daily News and owner Shaw Media Inc. with the EEOC in Milwaukee, said in a statement that accompanied his bias charge that he was fired May 5 after writing a blog post that “described my sincerely held religious beliefs regarding Holy Scripture and the definition of marriage.”

“There is no question that I was fired for holding and talking about my sincerely held religious beliefs on my personal blog during my off-duty time from the comfort of my own home. There is no dispute that it was my personal blog and not connected to the newspaper,” the statement said.

“Shaw Media directly discriminated against me because of my religious beliefs and my identity as an evangelical Christian who believes in Holy Scripture and the biblical view of marriage,” Eschliman added.

The April 28 blog post at issue has been taken down. However, in its own story on Eschliman’s complaint, the Newton Daily News said Eschliman had garnered national attention after criticizing the “Queen James” translation of the Bible and writing, “I’d like to talk a little bit about deceivers among us, most notably the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo effort to reword the Bible to make their sinful nature ‘right with God.’”

According to the Newton Daily News, he wrapped up his post by saying, “If you ask me, it sounds like the Gaystapo is well on its way. We must fight back against the enemy.”

Jeremiah Dys, senior counsel at the Liberty Institute, which is representing Eschliman on his EEOC charge, pointed out that Eschliman has a family to support, is currently on unemployment, and is fighting an uphill battle to find work as a journalist. “The illegal actions of Shaw Media have led to him being blacklisted from finding a job in journalism,” Dys said.

When asked about the use of the term “Gaystapo,” Dys said Eschliman probably could have chosen better words, but still shouldn’t have been fired.

Where is a private blog, a public matter? Can someone be fired for opinions expressed on a private blog which are considered by the employer to be biased or discriminatory? These issues are still being worked out in courts and in private and public conversations, and will no doubt continue to be litigated over the next decade.

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William W. Bloch, Esq.

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