DALLAS (Christian Examiner) -- In a case that could have national implications, sportscaster Craig James is suing Fox Sports, claiming the company fired him in 2013 based solely on his beliefs about traditional marriage.
The religious discrimination suit filed by Liberty Institute in Texas state court comes one month after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, and as Christian and other religious employees grow concerned about what they can say about the issue, on or off the job.
James indicated he believed his case could make an impact on the public discussion, even if only in state court.
"This case is much bigger than me," he said.
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 is well-known among football fans, having played in the NFL before moving on to a successful career calling NFL games on CBS and college football games on ESPN and ABC. He was part of the original ESPN "College GameDay" crew in the early 1990s.
He left ESPN in 2011 to run for the U.S. Senate, and during a debate for the Republican nomination made clear his biblical stances on homosexuality and marriage.
When the debate discussion turned to the Dallas mayor appearing in a gay pride parade, James said, "I think right now in this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is going to be hard to stop if we don't stand up with leaders who don't go ride in gay parades. I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade."
Kids, he said, need better "examples."
Asked if he thought homosexuality was a sin, James said, "I do."
"It's not in the genes?" the moderator asked.
"I think that you have to make that choice," James said "But in that case right there, they are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions."
After James failed to win the Republican nomination, Fox Sports Southwest hired him in August 2013 and then fired him days later, after only one appearance on the air.
A Fox spokesman was quoted at the time as saying of James' dismissal, "We just asked ourselves how Craig's statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn't say those things here."
"Fox Sports fired Craig James because of his religious beliefs about marriage and his expression of those beliefs," the lawsuit states. "... Until that time, James spent his entire adult life in the public eye. He played on teams with people from diverse backgrounds; he worked for media companies for more than two decades with people from diverse backgrounds. James also hired an openly gay man as an important campaign consultant because he valued that person's expertise regardless of his sexual orientation. Fox Sports fired James for one reason only: his religious beliefs about marriage."
Fox Sports violated the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act and Texas contract law, the suit says.
"Craig James is a man of faith and integrity, which calls him foremost to show love and kindness to all those around him, regardless of whether they share his beliefs. According to his faith, all people possess intrinsic value, and all people deserve love and respect—including the freedom not to be judged, penalized, or punished for their beliefs," the lawsuit says.
Scott Grogin, senior vice president of communications for Fox Networks Group, rejected the notion that James was fired for his beliefs.
"The decision had nothing to do with Mr. James' religious beliefs and we did not discriminate against Mr. James in any way," Grogin told the Dallas Morning News. "The allegations are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them."
James said the case "affects every person who holds religious beliefs."
"I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty," James said. "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."
Jeff Mateer, an attorney for Liberty Institute, said that 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," Mateer said. "It's the ultimate intolerance and we will not stand by and allow Fox's actions to go unpunished."
Read the lawsuit here.