Ron Strom is commentary editor of WND, a post he took after serving as a news editor since 2000. Prior to coming on board with WND, Strom worked in politics in California. Married and the father of two homeschool graduates, he has served in leadership positions in his church, local nonprofit boards and in county government.More ↓Less ↑
Eight members of Congress have jumped into the fight between Allstate and a former manager who is suing the insurance giant for allegedly firing him because he wrote an anti-homosexual column on his own time.
As WorldNetDaily reported, J. Matt Barber was a manager in Allstate’s Corporate Security Division, its investigative arm, at the Fortune 100 company’s headquarters in Northbrook, Ill. Besides working for the insurance provider, Barber was and is a professional heavyweight boxer, a jazz drummer and a Web commentator. His columns have appeared on TheConservativeVoice.com, MensNewsDaily.com and others.
The column in question was written and posted in December. After being called into a meeting with two human resources officials who confronted Barber about the column, he was fired effective Feb. 3.
Though the original column’s bio line did not indicate Barber worked for Allstate, editors at one of the sites where it was posted added that information, and a complaint about the piece made its way to Allstate management.
With the help of the Christian Law Association and David Gibbs III, who represented Terri Schiavo’s family in the final weeks of her life, Barber is challenging Allstate in federal court. The suit was filed in May, but Barber’s attorneys don’t expect it to come to trial until next year.
Despite the matter being a legal dispute between two parties, eight members of Congress led by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., signed a letter July 15 addressed to Allstate Chairman and CEO Edward Liddy asking the executive for answers to specific questions about the Barber case.
“As members of Congress who are committed to protecting constitutional freedom of speech,” the lawmakers wrote, “we are surprised by Mr. Barber’s allegation. Many Americans support traditional marriage and the innumerable benefits therein. …”
Continues the letter:
“We respectfully ask that you investigate the veracity of Mr. Barber’s claim and respond to the following questions:
“What were the reasons for Mr. Barber’s dismissal?
“Did Allstate receive complaints regarding Mr. Barber’s article? If so, who submitted those complaints?
“Does Allstate have a policy regarding expression of personal views by employees?
“In the past ten years, how many employees have been dismissed for expressing personal views.”
The members of Congress noted it was “especially troubling” to hear of the allegations considering the “legacy of men and women who have given their lives to protect our freedoms, including the freedom of speech.”
Steve Taylor, communications chief for Akin, says the congressman has received nothing from Allstate indicating it is reconsidering its firing of Barber.
“It appears that Allstate is sticking to its guns,” Taylor told WND.
Since WorldNetDaily first broke the story in June, Christian lobbying groups, including the American Family Association, have urged their supporters to contact Allstate – both the headquarters and local agents – about the matter. As a result of thousands of e-mails about the incident, Allstate has posted a response to the allegations on its website.
The webpage quotes part of Allstate’s filing in court: “Plaintiff, James Matthew Barber, was not discharged from his employment with Allstate Insurance Company because of his religious beliefs or practices, but because he used the company’s information technology systems and other resources for his personal journalism activities, many of which took place on company time, and which identified Plaintiff as an employee of the Allstate Insurance Company.”
The company says it “would not terminate an employee for expressing personal religious or lifestyle views on his or her own time.”