Represented by nonprofit religious-freedom advocacy group Liberty Institute, James filed a Rule 202 petition on Sept. 26, seeking to depose Fox Sport Southwest’s general manager and executives at the parent company Fox Sports Media Group.
James alleges in his Rule 202 petition, filed in the 417th District Court in Collin County, that Fox Sports Southwest terminated him for religious beliefs he expressed during his previous unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate.
According to a news account of James’ remarks forwarded by Hiram Sasser, litigation director for Plano-based Liberty Institute, James was asked about same-sex marriage during a primary debate with other Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in April 2012. In response, James said: “People choose to be gay. … I think it’s a choice. I do. Same- sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, that’s done. And God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions. And in that case right there, they’re going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions.”
Lou D’Ermilio, a spokesman for Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports Media Group, did not return a call for comment.
In the Rule 202 petition, James alleges that he worked in broadcasting for 30 years before Fox Sports Southwest hired him in August. But the petition alleges James appeared only once on one of its broadcasts before Fox Sports Southwest terminated him on Sept. 2.
The Rule 202 petition alleges a Fox spokesperson said at the time 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.”
The Rule 202 petition also alleges that Randy Freer and Eric Shanks, co-presidents of Fox Sports Media Group, overrode Jon Heidtke, general manager of Fox Sports Southwest, and decided to terminate James.
“Craig James believes that he, as a Christian, is called to love everyone regardless of his or her sexual orientation,” notes the Rule 202 petition, adding that, in the past, James has hired someone who is “openly homosexual.”
“Craig James simply wants to receive the same tolerance for his religious beliefs that he himself practices towards others and, if a Rule 202 deposition reveals wrongful motivation in his termination or that false and defamatory statements have been made suggesting James is discriminatory and intolerant toward other [he will] initiate a law suit against those responsible,” James alleges in the Rule 202 petition.
A Sept. 24 demand letter posted online, written by James Mateer, Liberty Institute general counsel, and addressed to Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports Media Group officials, alleges that James’ termination violated his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on religious beliefs. The letter asks for James’ reinstatement.
Sasser says James filed the Rule 202 petition within 48 hours after sending the demand letter.
Mike Leach Battle
In another legal matter involving James, 99th District Court Judge William C. Sowder in Lubbock issued a final judgment on Sept. 19 in a long-pending lawsuit that pitted former Texas Tech University football coach Mike Leach against a James, ESPN and a Dallas public relations company.
Leach, who eventually lost his Texas Tech job, claimed all three defendants had defamed him and tortiously interfered with Leach’s contract in connection with a controversy involving James’ son, then a Texas Tech football player.
Sowder’s order grants the summary judgment motions of all three defendants and disposes of all claims.
“We are very pleased,” says Shannon Teicher, a partner in the Dallas office of Jackson Walker who represents Spaeth Communications, the Dallas public relations firm named.
“Hell, yes, we are going to appeal,” says Leach’s lawyer, Ted Liggett of The Liggett Law Firm in Lubbock.
Liggett’s co-counsel, Steve Heniger of Heniger Garrison Davis in Birmingham, Ala., says Leach will appeal to reverse Sowder’s grant of summary judgment on Leach’s tortious interference claims but will not appeal the ruling on the defamation claims.
Heniger says, “We think there is plenty of evidence of tortious interference with Leach’s contract.”
Matt Matzner, a partner in Lubbock’s Crenshaw, Dupree & Milam in Lubbock who represents ESPN, and Jim Drakeley, a partner in Dallas’ Hiersche, Hayward, Drakeley & Urbach who represents Craig James, did not return one telephone call each seeking comments.