Ousted editor Bob Eschliman
Newspaper Editor Fired For Antigay Blog Settles Discrimination Complaint

By Michael O'Loughlin

Originally published on Advocate.com May 09 2014 6:12 PM ET

A report Tuesday says the editor of a small Iowa newspaper who lost his job after calling for a “fight” against LGBT people has reached a settlement outside court.

Bob Eschliman was fired from the Newton Daily News in May 2014, after writing on his personal blog that people “must fight” what he dubbed “the Gaystapo” and “the enemy.”

An unnamed spokesperson for the conservative nonprofit legal group that often figures in these so-called religious discrimination cases, Liberty Institute, told The Des Moines Register that Eschliman, and Shaw Media Inc. reached a confidential settlement over his termination from the Newton Daily News.

No dollar figure for the settlement was released or announced.

Eschliman filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 2014, and his legal team has since exchanged correspondence multiple times. The Advocate reached out to the EEOC Tuesday for an update on its investigation and we have not yet heard back. 

In his blog, Eschliman expressed his displeasure with attempts to interpret the Bible through a gay-positive lens. His post appears to be motivated by the marketing of a revised edition of the Bible, called the Queen James Bible, which its publisher says has been edited to prevent homophobic interpretations, as well as the Reformation Project, an group headed by 23-year-old Matthew Vines that advocates for LGBT equality within Christianity.

Eschliman condemned “the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo effort to reword the Bible to make their sinful nature ‘right with God,’” in reference to the Queen James Bible.

John Rung, president of Newton Daily News parent company Shaw Media, wrote a letter in the paper explaining that while Eschliman is protected by the First Amendment to express his feelings freely, the newspaper has “a right to select an editor who we believe best represents our company and best serves the interests of our readers.”

Rung cited the company’s “Statement of Editorial Principles” as explanation for why Eschliman was fired. They say that “journalists subject people and institutions to intense and constant scrutiny” and therefore hold their employees to “the highest principles in our conduct. Our integrity is our most valuable asset. Without it, we lose the public trust invested in us by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Cleveland Eugene Bryant, a pastor, wrote a letter to the editor, in which he applauded the paper’s decision to fire its editor.

“Eschliman’s termination is not a matter of free speech, or of the free exercise of religious beliefs. It is about utilizing the poor judgment to express views in public which any prudent person would have known would be offensive to a significant number of people,” he wrote.

Another reader, Jacob Hall, wrote to the editor to express support for Eschliman.

“As a Christian who happens to believe in what the Bible actually says, I realize we will be persecuted,” he wrote. “But as an American I am appalled at the attempts to silence and censor God-fearing patriots like Bob. After all, he fought for the freedom to even have this debate. At the very least we should include him in it.”

Eschliman reportedly tried to appease his employer by taking the blogpost down, but he was fired anyway.

On Shaw Media’s website, it describes the Newton Daily News as “the only daily (M-F) paper published in Jasper County. An award winning newspaper from the Iowa Newspaper Foundation, the Newton Daily News is one of the smallest communities in Iowa that still publishes a newspaper five days per week.”

Follow Michael O’Loughlin on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

Contributor: 
Michael O'Loughlin