Bob Eschliman was an editor for the Newton Daily News, a newspaper based in Newton, Iowa. Eschliman lost his job after publishing a controversial, personal blog criticizing a website which rewrites the Christian bible for a homosexual audience.
Eschliman described the site, “Queen James Bible,” as an attempt by “the Gaystapo” to “make their sinful nature right with God.” The Queen James Bible claims that "homosexuality" was only added to the Christian Bible in 1946, and that a new version without mention of that word can help prevent homophobia in modern society. According to Fox News, Eschilman was placed on paid leave two days after the blog went live. Two days later, on May 5, he was fired.
Eschilman’s dismissal has called into question First Amendment rights for journalists employed by publications, especially considering Eschilman wrote the anti-gay commentary on a personal blog.
John Rung, president of Shaw Media, who owns the Newton Daily News, subsequently published an editorial criticizing the former editor and dismissing any notion that the First Amendment would allow him to keep his job.
“The First Amendment does not eliminate responsibility and accountability for one’s words and actions. While [Bob] is entitled to his opinion, his public airing of it compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it,” Rung wrote.
In response to his dismissal, however, Eschilman has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in Milwaukee, arguing that religious discrimination was a factor in his firing. According to the Des Moines Register, Eschilman is a member of Christian Reformed Church of Newton.
The Newton Daily News has refused to comment on or acknowledge the pending litigation, but it will be interesting to see whether judges rule that Eschilman’s anti-gay slurs can be protected as religious belief.