NEWTON, Iowa — The former editor of the Newton Daily News in Newton, Iowa, filed a complaint Wednesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying he was fired for expressing his religious beliefs on his personal blog.
Bob Eschliman claims religious discrimination and retaliation in the complaint.
The EEOC could order the newspaper’s parent company, Dixon, Illinois-based Shaw Media Inc., to compensate Eschliman with back pay, future pay and exemplary damages. It also could issue him a right to sue letter allowing him to pursue his complaint in federal court.
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Shaw Media President John Rung didn’t immediately return a call. Eschliman had worked at the 4,000-circulation newspaper since June 2012.
Eschliman, a married 41-year-old father of two, was fired May 6, a week after he wrote on a personal blog that gay organizations wanted to reword the Bible “to make their sinful nature ‘right with God.'” He also discussed what he termed “deceivers among us,” called gay groups the “Gaystapo” and ended the post with, “We must fight back against the enemy.”
The newspaper published a column by Rung on the day it announced Eschliman’s firing. In it, Rung said Eschliman’s posting did not reflect the opinion of the newspaper or the company. He said Eschliman’s public airing of his views “compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it.”
Eschliman’s attorney, Matt Whitaker, says he doesn’t believe his client’s comments approach hate speech and says that Eschliman was “expressing his deeply held religious beliefs which are mainstream Christian beliefs.”
Article continues below“I just really think this case is a prime example of where religious freedom in our country is under assault and we need to send a strong message,” said Whitaker, a Des Moines attorney who also is getting support from the Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal organization focusing on religious liberty issues.
Eschliman said typically only about 30 people read his postings. He said the company was aware he had a personal blog and no one had previously objected or told him he was violating any company policy.
Eschliman said it’s been difficult to find another job in Iowa and feels he’s been blacklisted.
“I’m hopeful that once we are able to get this blot on my career taken away that I can get back to doing what I do best,” he said.
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