The former editor of the Newton Daily News has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Forty-one-year-old Bob Eschilman and his attorney held a news conference Wednesday where he claims his constitutional rights were violated because he was fire from the newspaper for his religious beliefs.
His firing in early May came one week after he wrote a personal blog criticizing gay organizations for trying to rewrite the Bible to be more gay friendly to make their sinful nature “right with God.” He used words like “Gaystopo” “Flaming Homo” in the blog “It wasn’t for publication, it was for a personal blog that maybe 30 people a day were looking at, mainly family and friends,” Eschilman says.
The blog appeared on April 28th and the newspaper put Eschilman on paid suspension two days later. He was fired the following week. “To be fired for basically on my own time expressing my personal and deeply held religious views, it’s shocking,” Eschilman says. In an editorial published in the Newton Daily News the day after Eschilman was fired, the president Shaw Media the parent company of the paper, wrote Eschilman was entitled to his opinion — but his public airing of it compromised the reputation of the newspaper and his ability to lead it.
Eschilman is being represented by Des Moines attorney Matt Whittaker, who says the firing was against the law. “I think Bob was expressing his deeply held religious beliefs, which are mainstream Christian beliefs quite frankly, and that is what is protected,” Whittaker says. Whitaker is a volunteer attorney with Liberty Institute, a non-profit legal organization focusing on religious liberty issues.
Jeremy Dys,is a senior lawyer with Liberty Institute. “You cannot be fired for your religious beliefs or for your faith,” Dys says. “If anything you have to be accommodated while you are at work for your religious beliefs. Shaw media did not even offer that to Bob, instead they just summarily fired him.” If the commission rules in Eschilman’s favor, it could order Shaw Media of Dixon, Illinois to give him back pay and damages.
(Reporting by Randy Van, KCOB, Newton)