Craig James Sues Fox for Anti-Christian Discrimination

Craig James is not content with his life. Despite being part of one of the biggest scandals in college sports history at SMU, being a borderline coherent college football analyst for more than a decade and receiving 3.6 percent of the vote in the 2012 Texas Republican Senate primary, James wants to get paid, too, so he's filed a lawsuit against the Fox television network in Dallas County district court.

The Houston native is suing because he — and the Liberty Institute, Plano's religious freedom-promoting think tank — believe Fox fired him after just one studio appearance on Fox Sports Southwest's college football coverage because he is a Christian who believes in a narrow definition of marriage.

James was hired by Fox just before the 2013 college football season. He'd previously served as an analyst for ESPN, a job he quit in 2011 to run for the Senate. During his Senate campaign, which was an unmitigated disaster, James made a series of comments about the LGBTQ community that would eventually get him fired by Fox. James made the mistake of trying to outflank Ted Cruz to the right. He said that he believed homosexuality was choice, that he would never march in a pride parade and that LGBTQ people would have to answer to the Lord for their sexual orientation.

The former SMU running back was hired by Fox Sports Southwest, the Fox Sports local affiliate that covers Dallas and other areas in the Southwest. He was fired by the Fox Sports national office, based in Los Angeles.

"We just asked ourselves how Craig's statements would play in our human resources department," a Fox spokesman told The Dallas Morning News in September of 2013. "He couldn't say those things here."

The Liberty Institute helped James file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission in 2014. Now they're helping him sue the network that fired him.

"This case is much bigger than me. It affects every person who holds religious beliefs. I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty. Today, many people have lost their jobs because of their faith. Sadly, countless are afraid to let their bosses know they even have a faith. This is America and I intend to make sure Fox Sports knows they aren't above the law," James said Monday in a statement issued by the Liberty Institute.

In his lawsuit, James says that he has "has personal friends, family members and professional colleagues on both sides of marriage and family issues, some of whom are themselves gay, lesbian and transgender," because his filing would be incomplete if he did not. The Liberty Institute has also created, a site that includes a nice picture of James and his SMU teammate Eric Dickerson, but does not mention that payments he and Dickerson received from boosters were part of a pattern of behavior that led to SMU being the only school in NCAA history to receive the "death penalty" — a full-program shutdown — in 1987.

"With 24 years of experience as a sports broadcaster, Craig James was eminently qualified for his job at Fox Sports. He wasn’t fired over his performance — he was fired because he talked about his faith outside the workplace even before he was hired. By firing James, Fox is essentially putting all of its employees on notice, telling them that if they talk about their faith at any time, they can be fired. That is the very definition of unlawful religious discrimination. It’s the ultimate intolerance and we will not stand by and allow Fox’s actions to go unpunished," Liberty Institute attorney Jeff Mateer said.

Vanessa Griffiths, Fox's attorney in the case, has not yet responded to a request for comment. You can check out the heavily redacted version of James' lawsuit provided by the Liberty Institute below. We'll let you know if we can get our hands on an unredacted copy.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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