Texas Religious-Right Legal Group Signs on to Represent Football Analyst Dumped Over Anti-Gay Comments

by Dan Quinn

Liberty Institute, a viciously anti-gay religious-right litigation group based in Plano near Dallas, announced today that it will represent a college football analyst who was dumped by Fox Sports for anti-gay comments he made when running for a U.S. Senate seat from Texas in 2012.

In an email to his group’s supporters this afternoon, Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford said:

I’m writing to let you know that well-known college football analyst Craig James has hired Liberty Institute to represent him after Fox Sports made national headlines by terminating him because of his personal religious beliefs.

Attorneys for Liberty Institute have contacted Fox Sports Southwest.  We are demanding that they reinstate Craig to his position as on-air college football analyst and stop discriminating against him.

Here is a letter from Liberty Institute to Fox Sports. If Fox Sports fails to rehire James, the group writes, “millions of Americans will be left with the impression that you do not respect religious liberty and Liberty Institute will be forced to pursue subsequent legal options.”

James is a former SMU and NFL running back who worked as a college football analyst for ESPN before running for a U.S. Senate seat from Texas in 2012. Ted Cruz ultimately won that seat. In a February 2012 Republican primary debate, James criticized another candidate — Tom Leppert — for walking in gay pride parades when he was mayor of Dallas. James insisted that people choose to be gay and “are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions.” He also said he opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions and would never ride in a gay parade.

James worked one weekend as a Fox Sports Southwest analyst this football season before the network let him go, saying that national executives hadn’t signed off on his hiring. A Fox spokesman also told the Dallas Morning News: “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”

Honest people can disagree about whether James should have been canned for comments he made in a political debate nearly 18 months earlier. Similarly, folks can disagree about whether his firing amounted to religious discrimination. But it’s worth considering that Fox Sports didn’t fire James because of his religious beliefs. They fired him because they thought his intolerant public statements about gay people would hurt their company.

Isn’t it interesting that an organization — Liberty Institute — that once called itself Free Market Foundation is now going after a private company for making a business decision?

By the way, how anti-gay is Liberty Institute? This summer the group’s lobby arm in Austin, Texas Values, tried to defeat a proposed San Antonio ordinance protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.  The San Antonio City Council passed the measure despite efforts by Texas Values to mislead voters about its effects.

But Liberty Institute/Texas Values doesn’t just defend discrimination. It has also criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling that the Texas sodomy law was unconstitutional. Apparently, the folks at Texas Values think prosecutors should still be able to fine and imprison LGBT people for their intimate, consensual relationships. In fact, just last April the group criticized Texas lawmakers for considering legislation repealing the state’s sodomy law. That law remains on the books despite the Supreme Court striking it down more than a decade ago.

Comments