Newspaper editor fired for criticizing homosexuality gets settlement

by Daniel James Devine
Posted 8/14/15, 04:53 pm

Iowa newspaper editor Bob Eschliman, who was fired for blogging about his views on homosexuality, has reached a legal settlement with his former employer.

But that doesn’t mean he’s getting his old job back. Asked on Friday whether he was still writing for his old employer, the Newton Daily News, Eschliman said he was now “solely focused” on his position at another news outlet.

Eschliman was the editor-in-chief of Newton Daily News in Newton, Iowa, from 2012 until May 2014, when the paper and its parent company, Shaw Media, fired him for posting his beliefs about homosexuality on his personal blog.

“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,’” Eschliman, a Christian, wrote in an April 2014 blog post. He used the post to lambast a pro-gay version of the Bible, the Queen James Bible, whose verses are edited to eliminate any mention of gay sex as sinful.

“If you ask me, it sounds like the Gaystapo is well on its way. We must fight back against the enemy,” Eschliman wrote.

Two days later, Eschliman’s boss suspended him, and shortly thereafter he was fired. Eschliman declined to sign a severance agreement, and instead filed a religious discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Shaw Media President John Rung claimed the newspaper was entitled to fire Eschliman because he did not best represent the company and the interests of Daily News readers: “While Mr. Eschliman is entitled to his opinion, his public airing of it compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it.”

But Eschliman’s attorneys argued the media group fired him simply because he expressed his biblical views—a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of religion.

“He was expressing his religious beliefs on that blog,” Jeremiah Dys, senior counsel for the Liberty Institute, told WORLD last year. “No American—especially people in the journalism field—should be fired simply for expressing their religious beliefs.”

Late last month, Eschliman and Shaw Media reached a private settlement that avoids further litigation. Had Eschliman won his discrimination claim, he could have been entitled to back pay and damages.

“My family and I are pleased that we have been able to resolve this matter with Shaw Media in a way that is beneficial to all parties involved,” Eschliman said in a statement released by the Liberty Institute, who represented Eschliman in this case.

Liberty attorney Hiram Sasser added, “Shaw Media showed true leadership in respecting free speech and religious liberty in the resolution to this matter.”

The details of the settlement are confidential, but it appears Eschliman won’t be returning to the Daily News. The paper’s website lists the current editor as Abigail Pelzer.

On Friday, Eschliman said his writing endeavors are “solely focused on The Iowa Statesman,” where he serves as editor and co-publisher and continues to write on “a wide array of subjects.”

He said he could not speak directly to the settlement because of the confidentiality agreement, but said in an email he was pleased with the outcome.

“In general, I am glad this case has been resolved, and that it is seen as a victory for religious freedom over those who would attempt to bully people of faith into silence,” he said. “It is my hope that more Americans will stand up for their unalienable rights.”

Daniel James Devine

Daniel is managing editor of WORLD Magazine and leads WORLD's investigative unit, the Caleb Team. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former science and technology reporter. Daniel resides in Indiana. Follow him on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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