Two Journalists Sue a Newspaper Claiming Religious Discrimination

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 22, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight, anti-Christian bias in the media. Two former editorial writers for The Indianapolis Star newspaper have sued, saying the paper and its owner Gannett demonstrated hostility toward Christianity.

Joining us now from Indianapolis are James Patterson and Lisa Coffey, who say they were removed from their editorial positions because of certain pro-God viewpoints they held.

Ms. Coffey, we'll begin with you. Are you absolutely positive that you were demoted because you're a Christian?

LISA COFFEY: Yes, sir. Yes, Bill, I absolutely am absolutely positive. I worked at The Indianapolis News, the pre — well, the sister paper of The Indianapolis Star and The Star for a total of more than 13 years, nearly 14 years. I love my job. I always had excellent performance reviews. I was the only MBA in the department.

I had recently received a stellar performance review, in which it was — I was termed an extremely valuable employee who better than anyone in the department knew how to do all facets of the different jobs in the department. Editorial writing, copy editing, page design, et cetera.

Just a mere four and half months later, the executive editor at The Star asked — told me that I was being transferred to the copy desk. And this was in the height of election season. And we had definite staff shortage at that time.

O'REILLY: OK. Why did he say you were being transferred?

COFFEY: He didn't give any explanation. He just my services were no longer needed in the department. He gave no explanation.

O'REILLY: Then how did you make connection to an anti-Christian bias?

COFFEY: Well, a series of events had occurred prior to that date on October 13th, 2003. First briefly, his censoring of a series that I had written on the public health implications of sodomy and the economic consequences. It was series that infuriated him. He killed it outright. Our department head at the time said she would have actually quit her job had she not already planned to go on sabbatical for a year.

O'REILLY: All right, so despite this guy...

COFFEY: Dennis — he's like my series.

O'REILLY: This is Dennis Ryerson (search) you're talking about?

COFFEY: Yes, sir.

O'REILLY: OK, the editor of the paper. So he spiked your series. And then you led — one thing led to another. And you...

COFFEY: Well, right.

O'REILLY: All right, I want to...

COFFEY: In addition to, you know...

O'REILLY: I can't try the case on television. It wouldn't be fair to anybody.

COFFEY: Of course not.

O'REILLY: Now Mr. Patterson, you got fired, correct?

PATTERSON: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

O'REILLY: And why do you think you got fired?

JAMES PATTERSON, FIRED FROM INDIANAPOLIS STAR EDITORIAL BOARD: Well, because top management showed — displayed an animus towards Christian employees in the editorial department, a group of us.

And an example of that his, on Mr. Ryerson's first day, his first day on the job, he was offended by an editorial I wrote asking the community to pray for our troops. It was when we started the war against Iraq. And we had troops in Afghanistan. In fact, I had a nephew who just served a year in Afghanistan, I'm a veteran myself served in Vietnam. My dad served 17 years in the Air Force. And we're a military family. And I was taken aback by that.

O'REILLY: Oh, really? But you wrote that we all should pray for the troops and he didn't like that. But the EEOC investigated your complaint. And they found there was no substance to it. How did that happen?

PATTERSON: Well, sir, the EEOC — it doesn't have the resources to investigate thoroughly. And in fact in Indiana, you have to file with the EEOC if you want to file a suit.

O'REILLY: Right.

PATTERSON: It's a state law.

O'REILLY: But they came down on the side of the paper. I just want everybody to...

PATTERSON: No, they...


PATTERSON: What they used — the language was we were unable to find that discrimination exists.

O'REILLY: OK, but that's...

PATTERSON: However the very next system...

O'REILLY: ...on the side of the paper. They're going to use that in the trial.


O'REILLY: That's OK. I mean, look, I'm not sticking up for the EEOC.

COFFEY: No, not at all. But the wording was such that it was — they were unable to conclude...

O'REILLY: All right.

COFFEY: This is no way exonerates The Star.

O'REILLY: Now let me ask you both one very specific question. OK?


O'REILLY: Ryerson and The Indianapolis Star says, Miss Coffey...


O'REILLY: ...that they oppose the civil liberties union. The ACLU's trying to prevent use of words "Jesus Christ" in state house prayers. Is that true?

COFFEY: Yes, it is.

O'REILLY: OK, so they're going to point to that as look, we're not against Christians.

PATTERSON: Well, we're going to point to the fact, Mr. O'Reilly, that we filed our complaint over a year ago. In fact, we filed the EEOC complaint last summer. And you know, this is hindsight. I mean, they claimed that they published this editorial in June, but this is way after the fact, they're just trying to cover their flanks...

O'REILLY: OK. So you think that they're taking this position to try to protect themselves against the lawsuit that you guys have filed?

PATTERSON: Yes, sir.


COFFEY: Yes, in the sense — but in a way, that also mischaracterizes the suit. We are not even saying that The Star has not given some coverage to religious issues and venues, but what we are saying is that religious animus that leads to negative impact on employees is illegal under Title VII.

O'REILLY: OK, one more question for you, Ms. Coffey, because you did the series...


O'REILLY: ...on the HIV and conduct and stuff like that.

COFFEY: On sodomy. Yes.

O'REILLY: The Star is against gay marriage in editorial position, are they not?

COFFEY: I can assure you that behind the scenes, there were fights every day that The Star top management staff, the publisher and the executive editor, and their reasons for being, you know, very pro-gay are well-known to many people and will come out at trial.

O'REILLY: But they are...

COFFEY: ...pushing for that...

O'REILLY: But they are against...

COFFEY: But they allowed.

O'REILLY: Yes, they — but their editorial stance is anti-gay marriage. Is it not?

COFFEY: I appreciate that. They allowed a water downed version of — against, you know, conservative marriage. You're right.


COFFEY: They allowed that.

O'REILLY: All right, I just want to be fair. Now we're going to follow this.

COFFEY: Yes, I agree.

O'REILLY: We're going to follow this.


O'REILLY: We're going to follow this from top to bottom. And we'll see what happens, all right?

COFFEY: We appreciate it.

O'REILLY: And we appreciate you coming on. The Indianapolis Star is welcome to reply any time.

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