Skip to comments.Foes on the left, friends on the right
Posted on 11/23/2005 12:21:26 PM PST by Woodland
Foes on the left, friends on the right
Employee who lost job after criticizing same-sex marriage in online essay says he"s a victim of reverse discrimination
By Robert Sanchez Daily Herald Staff Writer Posted Wednesday, November 23, 2005
To insurance giant Allstate Corp., former employee J. Matt Barber is simply one guy disputing his termination.
But to same-sex marriage opponents, the circumstances behind Barbers dismissal from the Northbrook-based company have made him a 36-year-old cause celebre.
Barber, a born-again Christian, says he was fired for writing an online article defending marriage and criticizing homosexuality. The Villa Park resident later filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Allstates action constituted discrimination on the basis of religion.
This is about free speech, said Barber, a non-practicing attorney. Its about the chilling effect that Allstates actions have on individual rights. How much control does a corporation have over their employees private activities?
An Allstate representative, however, says Barber was using company resources on company time to dabble as an online conservative columnist.
No employee of Allstate has ever been terminated for expressing their personal views using their own equipment on their own time, spokesman Michael Trevino said.
Some conservative groups arent buying that explanation. They have been using newsletters and the Internet to spread Barbers story and urge Allstate customers to cancel their policies.
Matts become the symbol for politically correct repression, said Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Glen Ellyn-based Illinois Family Institute. He lost his job for just giving his thoughts.
A year ago, Barber was enjoying life in the business worlds fast lane.
He spent five years with Allstate, mostly with the corporate security department, and was paid a six-figure salary.
His wife, Sarah, was about to give birth to the couples third child in four years. And they had just invested tens of thousands of dollars into restoring and renovating their house near downtown Villa Park.
On his off time, Barber was trying a new hobby as a columnist. He was an unpaid, part-time contributing editor for theconservativevoice.com. Several conservative Web sites were re-running his opinion pieces.
Last December, Barber penned the essay that would raise the ire of one of the largest gay and lesbian advocacy groups in the nation.
Washington D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign says Barbers essay, æIntolerance Will Not Be Tolerated! The Gay Agenda vs. Family Values, was intolerable.
It was deeply offensive, said Daryl Herrschaft, director of the groups workplace project. It showed a thorough lack of compassion for the lives and families of gay and lesbian people.
Barber said he was merely expressing his religious beliefs. Its an honest, reasonable disagreement to think that marriage between two men is incompatible, he said.
Herrschaft claims Barber used junk science to support the view that same-sex marriage is oxymoronic and that the homosexual lifestyle causes dreadful and preventable health-related pitfalls.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion not their own facts, Herrschaft said.
What most concerned the Human Rights Campaign is that Allstate somehow sanctioned the essay. Barbers affiliation to the company was mentioned in biographical information that ran with the essay at mensnewsdaily.com.
We knew the company has been a fair-minded employer for years, Herrschaft said. So we contacted them for clarification. And we requested no specific action.
But Allstate did take action on Jan. 31 when Barber was called into a meeting with human resources supervisors.
According to Barber, a supervisors slapped down a printed copy of the article in front of him and asked if he had written it. Barber said he did.
The first words out of his mouth were, You know here at Allstate we have a very diverse community,æ Barber said.
The supervisor then told Barber that the company didnt share his position and didnt want to be associated with it. He then was told that he was suspended with pay and escorted off the campus.
After the two-day suspension, Barber received a brief telephone call informing him that he was terminated.
While the company received inquiries about whether Barbers opinions were shared by Allstate, the spokesman insists thats not why Barber was fired.
The reason he was terminated was because he used company resources to further his own personal journalistic activities, Trevino said.
But Barber said the companys policy is to first issue a warning. He never got one. Allstate also refused to send a letter stating why he was terminated another violation of company policy, Barber claims.
Trevino declined to comment on those issues.
In the meantime, Barbers drawing his own conclusions.
If I had written a column as an advocate for the homosexual lobby and identified myself as an Allstate employee I wouldnt have been fired, he said. I would have been uplifted as doing Allstate a favor.
Backlash or bark?
Barber isnt the only one refusing to believe Allstates version of his termination.
In May, Barber sued Allstate, retaining David Gibbs III, the attorney who represented Terri Schiavos parents in the last weeks of her life. The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as legal fees.
Within weeks, his story was being spread through the Internet and on conservative radio programs. One Web site, Canadafreepress.com, wrote, Allstate may have unwittingly spawned an anti-same-sex marriage martyr in the spunky J. Matt Barber.
LaBarbera says Barbers case has touched a nerve with millions of people.
They relate to a guy getting fired for what he believes, especially when what he believes is right up with what they believe, LaBarbera said.
He said conservatives have been complaining for years that political correctness is getting out of control.
Then, lo and behold, the article this guy wrote gets slapped down on the desk, and hes asked to explain it, he said. Pretty soon the thought police will be out there.
So conservatives and pro-family groups alike are calling on their supporters to e-mail Allstate executives and boycott the company, which insures 17 million households.
We have received e-mails from individuals, Trevino said. But its all been manageable.
He declined to comment on how many e-mails Allstate has received and whether any customers have canceled their insurance policies.
I can tell you that it has not caused any disruption in our business, he said.
But LaBarbera said Barbers case is only going to grow in stature. He predicts Allstate will lose tens of thousands of customers.
Fame not fortune
Being well-known hasnt prevented Barber from falling into financial straits.
He hasnt been able to keep up with his $3,000-a-month mortgage and is behind on his property tax payments.
Barring some miracle, were going to lose our home to foreclosure, he said, noting that he and his wife have been unable to sell their house, despite having it on the market for months.
The couple has had to rely on the generosity of strangers to help pay the bills.
After a talk Barber gave last week in Glen Ellyn, at least two audience members gave him personal checks. Palatine businessman, Richard Hartian, offered him a job.
For me, its an outrage that he would be fired for something as non-threatening as writing an article on his personal time, said Hartian, president of Ardain Mortgage Corp. It seems totally unfair.
Gubernatorial candidate Jim Oberweis beat Hartian to the punch. The Aurora dairy magnate has hired Barber to coordinate his campaign in DuPage County.
Anyone who has heard Matts story of standing up for traditional family values knows that we have a talented fighter on our team, Oberweis said in a statement.
The Human Rights Campaigns Herrschaft declined to comment about others rallying around Barber.
It concerns me when anyone is misrepresenting gay and lesbian families and demonizing them, he said. Because it is the kind of action that, ultimately, does lead to violence.
As a Christian, Barber says he loves everyone. He insists there is nothing hateful about his beliefs.
For me to voice my belief that there is sanctity in a marriage between one man and one woman, thats not hate, he said. Thats just the cornerstone of society.
But for them to snatch away my ability to provide for my young family, that is an act of hate.
No employee of Allstate has ever been terminated for expressing their personal views using their own equipment on their own time, spokesman Michael Trevino said."
This is outright anti-Christian bigotry. This guys needs to sue Allstate until they bleed.
Go gettim' Barber!
Looks as if I and my families will have to find a new insurance company. (After more than 40 years). We cannot in good conscience support their intolerance to one man and one woman marriages.
Well... I hate to rain on this parade, but it's in the best interest of anyone to maintain a firewall between their workplace and their private life. Work e-mails here, private e-mails there; insurance work here, columnist work there. It appears as if Allstate did fire the guy for his political stance; but as long as the company can show that he wasn't doing his job when he was supposed to be doing his job, he doesn't have much of a case. An employer has an expectation that their employees are focused on the job they're paid to do. I feel really bad for the guy, but he could have waited until 7 p.m. to post his column from home.
"An Allstate representative, however, says Barber was using company resources on company time to dabble as an online conservative columnist.
And that's what it will come down to, in court, proof that he used company resources on company time. It's all going to be based on his computer records and expert testimony about his computer usage.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion not their own facts, Herrschaft said.
What a hypocrite. It's a well documented fact that homosexuals have a shorter life span than non-homosexuals...and "dreadful and preventable health-related pitfalls" are a contributing factor to that.
Then I guess a lot of us walk that thin line too.
I'm a small business owner, so no, I own that line. If you are "doing your thing" on my time and my computer I reserve the right to fire your a**.
I agree completely with the guy's stand on homosexual marriage, but if he was writing and posting on company time he has no legal case and I feel sorry for him.
There seems to be more than one thing wrong with Allstate!
I can't disagree with your assessment, I wouldn't have fired him, although I would have told him to write and post from home. My comments were specifically about his lawsuit against his former employer.
I'm quite sure Allstate wanted to fire him and if he misused company time and resources then he gave them the ammunition they needed.
It may never have occurred to him that corporate had a lavender mafia that would come gunning for him. Most big corporations do, so freepers working in big corporations should take heed and protect themselves accordingly.
Whew. I'm glad you're not my boss.
Most people are ;-)
Most small business owners cannot afford theft of time and resources even for a good conservative cause.
When you steal from a large corporation you steal from the stockholders.
When you steal from me, you are stealing food from my children's mouths. It's not the kind of thing I can overlook just because I'm sympathetic to the guy's politics.
It's not personal, it's business.
I understand what you're saying. In bigger organizations down time is all part of the game. So it's either surf or talk smack about the co-workers.
I also cannot repeat enough to freepers in corporate employ: Beware the lavender mafia, they are there, they are powerful and they delight in destruction.