Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The resurrection of the Matt Barber/AllState lie

In fighting against ENDA, some members of the anti-gay industry is resurrecting the Matt Barber lie.

For the benefit of those who do not know, Matt Barber is the policy director for Cultural Studies for Concerned Women for America. Before that time, he worked at AllState Insurance.

He was fired from that job, subsequently making himself a new cause celebre for the anti-gay industry. You see, Barber claimed (and still claims) that he was fired for being Christian.

What caused the entire fuss was a column Barber wrote against marriage equality. It's funny because the column said nothing about his religious beliefs. It did include a lot of bad information, including some Cameronesque studies. Apparently Barber did not research his topic.

However, it did identify him as an employee of AllState. Barber claims this was added accidentally by another party.

AllState fired Barber, claiming that he used company resources for his personal use. Barber contended that he wrote the column on his own time.

Barber sued AllState for violating his religious beliefs because he was not allowed to receive unemployment benefits as a employee who was fired for willfull misconduct. The Illinois Department for Employment Security said this was not the case, so Barber was able to get unemployment benefits. Barber continued with a lawsuit against AllState.

He was aided by religious right lawyers, anti-gay industry figures such as Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association, and blogs like Free Republic who claimed that he was the newest victim of the "gay Mafia."

Barber and AllState settled, even though no dollar amount was mentioned.

Barber was not fired for his religious beliefs. As it turns out, AllState could have had a justifiable reason for firing him, which is why he was not rehired:

In court documents, Allstate said Barber was not fired for his beliefs, but for using company resources for his personal activities.

Company spokesman Michael Trevino said that Allstate has never terminated an employee for expressing his or her personal views away from the office. Barber said he wrote the articles at home but admitted that he sometimes sent personal e-mails, including some related to his writing, from his company laptop. Barber also stated that he made no more personal use of his laptop than his co-workers did.

Barber's situation had nothing to do with religion or ENDA. But in the eyes of the anti-gay industry, a lie can become the truth if it is repeated long enough.