Christians Commend ESPN Response to Anti-Jesus Controversy

Christian groups who protested ESPN's lack of response to anti-Jesus remarks made by one of its television hosts are now applauding the network for its recent commitment toward building religious tolerance in the workplace.

The controversy stemmed from a slew of offensive remarks made by news anchor Dana Jacobson during a Jan. 11 dinner in Atlantic City, N.J. A reportedly intoxicated Jacobson made such remarks as "F*** Notre Dame," "F***Touchdown Jesus," "F***Jesus."

Apologies from both ESPN and Jacobson followed the event and the "First Take" co-host was put on a one-week suspension. ESPN called her comments inappropriate and Jacobson said in an apology that she respects all religions and did not mean anything derogatory by her "poorly chosen words."

But the incident sparked protest among Christian watchdog groups which asked the television network to either fire Jacobson or suspend her for one year. The groups also held a demonstration outside EPSN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., late January.

In response, ESPN recently released a public statement in which the network promised to work toward building religious tolerance in its workplace and encourage its employees to use language consistent with that commitment.

"Diversity and communications are important to ESPN and we have existing programs in place for both," read the ESPN statement. "To bring focus to the issues of religious tolerance and language as part of these efforts is totally appropriate and we will do so."

The statement continued, "With regard to language in the workplace, we do not have a list of forbidden phrases, but we do require appropriate workplace behavior. We will raise the profile of this issue as part of our internal dialogue and will be emphasizing to employees the importance of using language that is appropriate in the workplace."

The protesting Christian groups commended ESPN on Thursday. The Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, the group behind the protest, called the statement by ESPN "the first powerful step toward building a culture of religious tolerance."

"Religious intolerance and discrimination should have no place in the American workplace," said Mahoney. "Employees should feel that their faith traditions, beliefs and value systems will be respected and honored."

"By making a first time commitment to include religious tolerance in their diversity programs, ESPN is sending a clear signal that religious discrimination has no place at their network," he continued. "ESPN has also recognized that the use of certain religiously offensive words and phrases must not be tolerated and their use is inappropriate."

Dr. Gary Cass, president of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, which often speaks out against "Christian bashing" in the media, also commended EPSN's recent response.

"Working to create a workplace that is 'faith friendly' is a step in the right direction and I commend ESPN for their promise to do so," he said.

"We hope this can help foster a further conversation about religious tolerance that can elevate our public discourse and reclaim a proper respect towards the religious convictions of others."

Cass also spoke on behalf of Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, one of America's largest Christian activist organizations, saying the conservative leader was "appreciative of the good news and will not move forward with any national boycott campaign."

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