A Christian weatherman in Bakersfield, Calif., says he was recently fired from his job days after he objected to an ABC-affiliate airing a story on successful local strip clubs.
KERO-TV's chief meteorologist, Jack Church, who delivers the weeknight weather forecast at 5, 6, and 11 p.m. for the station, told The Christian Post he was standing up for his Christian values when he asked executives at the station not to air a story about strip clubs doing well amid an economic recession.
"I said, 'I am a Christian,' and told them I just led a class at my church on faith sharing. I said this is totally inappropriate material for the 5 o'clock newscast and I asked them not to air the story," said Church.
When he learned that the story was going to be broadcast at the start of sweeps, Church asked for the day off. But when his request for leave was denied, the veteran meteorologist said he would not show up for work the day the story was set to air because he felt his presence was an implied endorsement of the racy material.
"I said I don't want to be on that newscast. I don't want to be associated to that material. They said, if you do indeed take off on Thursday, you may not come back on Friday," recalled Church.
Church then got a call from Steven McEvoy, vice president and general manager of KERO-ABC23, who told him he would no longer be employed by the station because he violated his contract.
McEvoy denied that Church's position on the story or his faith played any role in the TV station's decision to end his job.
"Meteorologist Jack Church was not terminated by KERO-TV because he objected to a story the station was running or because of his religious beliefs. Mr. Church was terminated because he breached his contract," McEvoy told The Christian Post in a written statement.
"Beyond this, the station is not at liberty to discuss Mr. Church’s termination," he added.
Church said that McEvoy's statement is technically true because the contract prohibits him from skipping a day of work during any of the four sweeps period throughout the year, February, May, July, and November. During sweeps, the station publishes special reports in an attempt to attract more viewers, according to Church.
For the current sweeps, KERO-TV aired a TV news segment entitled, "Dancing Around the Economy,", which included interviews with a strip club manager who comments on how well business has been and a strip club dancer who confirms to the reporter that "sex sells."
“At the end of the day, and everybody knows this, sex sells. The whole fantasy, you know, just coming in here and being whoever you want to be," exotic dancer Bailey Michaels said in the segment.
The clip, filed by ABC23 South County reporter Cris Ornelas, also shows a full-body shot of a scantily-clad stripper walking up to a pole on a stage, several shots of her spinning around the pole, and multiple shots of strip club signs.
Church said he felt the piece was almost like a promotion for strip clubs.
"I didn't want a teenage girl seeing this newscast and thinking that's a good job," he said.
Church joined KERO-TV in January 2010 to replace a retiring meteorologist at the station. KERO-TV broadcasts under ABC Channel 23 in the Bakersfield, Calif., area. The station is owned by McGraw-Hill Broadcasting Company.
With 30 years of experience in the television business, Church said he finally reached the "tipping point" of the content he would withstand. He hopes his story will prompt people to think twice about what is put on television.
"Some Christians might think, 'I'm not sure it's that bad.' That's the problem in society, we continue to push the envelope."
Despite being fired, Church said he has no regrets and does not harbor any anger toward KERO-TV or McEvoy, whom he said remains a friend.
"The station did what it needed to do. I did what I needed to do. And I feel good about it," Church remarked. "I think we're (Christians) directed by God to follow God first. At this time, I think it's time to put God first."
News of Church's firing was first reported by TV Spy after the meteorologist posted a Facebook message, which read: "Lost my job w/KERO-TV. We were set to air story @ start of sweeps in 5pm news featuring strip clubs & how they’re doing well in down economy. I protested saying it was inappropriate material for local newscast. Based on my Chrisitan (sic) values I could not be to part of this newscast. I asked to have day off when it would air. They denied request, I did’nt (sic) appear they fired me 5 days later for breach of contract."
Although he suspects his career as a meteorologist is over now following the news of his firing, Church said he would not seek a lawsuit over the issue but instead keep standing up for his faith and move on with his life.
"Well, l just depend on God and I'll do something else with my life," he said.