by Dan Quinn

The Texas-based, religious-right group Liberty Institute has hit a repulsive new low: equating the firing of an anti-gay sports commentator/politician in the United States with the January massacre of 17 people by Islamic extremists in France.

In a series of tweets this month, Liberty Institute has been claiming that sports commentator Craig James of Texas and two other people have lost their jobs because of their Christian beliefs. The latest such tweet was this morning:

It is tyranny: freedom for thee only if you agree with me. http://bit.ly/1zWz7Ag #JeSuisBob #JeSuisCraigJames #JeSuisEricWalsh

First, the claims about why these individuals lost their jobs is in dispute. But in any case, note that each of the tweets includes hashtags that play off #JeSuisCharlieHebdo, a hashtag that went viral after the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The Paris attacks also included murders at a Kosher deli and of a policewoman near a Jewish school. (A shrine in memory of the 17 victims of the terrorist attacks has been vandalized in recent weeks.)

You might recall that James has charged that Fox Sports wrongly fired him because of anti-gay comments he made during his run for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas in 2012. James and Liberty Institute, which represents him, claim that the firing amounted to religious discrimination. Liberty Institute’s tweets note two other individuals the group claims have lost their jobs because they expressed their religious beliefs about various topics, particularly homosexuality and evolution.

As we have said, honest people can disagree about whether Fox should have canned James. But the network didn’t fire him because of his religious beliefs. They discharged James because they thought his intolerant and offensive public statements about gay people and his advocacy of certain public policies would hurt their business. After all, having a commentator who alienates potential viewers with his controversial political comments is a risky thing. Similar things happened over the years to commentators who have made offensive statements on matters like race and gender.

And James’ political statements have been controversial. He has said — during political campaign debates — that gay people choose their sexual orientation and “are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions.” He also has expressed opposition to any legal recognition for same-sex couples, including civil unions. James has used the controversy over his remarks and political positions to bolster his support among far-right activists.

But whatever one thinks about James and what he has said, it’s vulgar and appalling to equate his firing to the brutal, senseless slaughter of 17 innocent people by religious extremists. Frankly, James should be ashamed that Liberty Institute is making such a comparison in some bizarre attempt to turn him into a Christian martyr. What’s next? Equating him to Joan of Arc? St. Peter?

What Liberty Institute is doing here is insulting and offensive to the victims of terrorism in France and, frankly, anywhere in the world. And it’s one more reasons Texans should take a very skeptical view of anything that organization says or does.