June 07, 2018
If having an opinion on sexuality were a fireable offense, then just about every office in America would be empty! Unfortunately at CrossFit headquarters, Russell Berger's is. Yesterday, the pastor and company spokesman was sacked by the fitness business because he dared to exercise something else: free speech!
The ruckus started earlier this month when an Indiana branch of the gym decided to cancel a workout that was being hosted specifically for LGBT pride month. Berger applauded the group for taking a stand, tweeting, "As someone who personally believes celebrating 'pride' is a sin, I'd like to personally encourage #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to host an @indypride workout. The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing." The backlash was immediate -- and ferocious. Initially, CrossFit execs put Berger on unpaid leave to see if the extremists' anger would cool. But after the response got more heated, the owners thought better of it and outright fired him.
"The statements made today by Russell Berger do not reflect the view of CrossFit Inc. For this reason, his employment with CrossFit has been terminated." That was the polite way of putting it. CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman's response was much more vicious. "He needs to take a big dose of 'shut the **** up,'" Glassman told a reporter, "and hide out for awhile." It's sad, he went on, "to have some zealot in his off-time do something this stupid. We're all upset. The whole company is upset."
Of course, there will be a lot of debate about whether Berger should have posted what he did as a representative of the company. But there should be no debate about the ruthless hostility that CrossFit's CEO has for a view that roughly half the country holds! No one should level this kind of vitriol at an employee and expect to be taken seriously on matters of tolerance.
Glassman's response is exactly the kind of animus the Supreme Court condemned in its opinion on baker Jack Phillips. "To describe a man's faith as 'one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use' is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical -- something insubstantial and even insincere..." Kennedy wrote for the court. "The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised..."
Obviously, Masterpiece was a case of government intolerance, but surely, in a civil society, we can agree that everyone deserves to be treated with respect -- regardless of what they think about sexuality. Unfortunately, that seems to be a bridge too far for some, who've made it "fashionable," as David French writes, "to decry dissenters as haters and bigots, to attempt to write them out of polite society in the same way that the larger American body politic has rightfully rejected the Klan."
"Politicians thunder against Christian bigots. Media organizations put the words 'religious liberty' in scare quotes, as if the expression of deeply held religious beliefs is a mere pretext, used to conceal darker motivations. And ideologues in state agencies give full vent to their rage, mocking faithful Christians as if they stand in the shoes of slavers and murderers."
Glassman could have dealt with the situation quietly. What's the point of going to the press with a blistering rant, profaning someone for a view that every president except Obama espoused? There's no excuse for this kind of public shaming.
"Only days after masterpiece, gay activists are seeking the ruination of a man for (correctly) calling the celebration of gay pride a sin on his personal social media profile," Erick Erickson posted. "I went to seminary with this guy. He's a good guy." But unfortunately, as far as society's bullies are concerned, there's no such thing as "good" people who disagree.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.