CrossFit gym in Indiana

Even in the face of widespread condemnation, Berger chose to double down on his comments, explaining he was simply supporting “God’s Word.”

Russell Berger Tweet


The company behind the exercise phenomenon known as “CrossFit” recently found itself in the middle of a heated debate over religious freedom and LGBT rights.

The controversy began after an Indianapolis CrossFit gym decided to cancel a workout session planned during an LGBT Pride event. Members of the gym were informed of the cancellation via an email which read that “the owners of the gym value health and wellness, and they believe that this event does not.”

A top CrossFit employee named Russell Berger then proceeded to voice his support for the cancellation on Twitter, thanking the company for “standing by your convictions and refusing to celebrate sin by hosting an @indypride workout.”

As tends to happen these days, the comments quickly spread across social media. But even in the face of widespread condemnation, Berger chose to double down on his comments. He told the media: “I use the word ‘sin’ to describe pride events, and the sexual lifestyles associated with them, because that’s what God’s Word calls it, and I believe that God’s Word is true.”

Given the Boot

As you might imagine, this didn’t improve matters much. Amid the ensuing outrage, CrossFit swiftly made the decision to fire Berger from his position at the company. Many people celebrated the move as a win against the Christian bigotry often faced by members of the LGBT community.

They also pointed to the incident as a clear example that freedom of speech doesn’t necessarily mean freedom from consequences. The message is: if you want to discriminate against gay people, be prepared to face the ramifications.

In an interview with a Christian radio show after his firing, Berger expressed dismay that the comments were enough to get him fired:

“I think it’s a really sobering and disheartening example of where we are as a culture that simply by expressing those views, which, again, have been pretty standard views for the historic Christian faith for thousands of years, that view is no longer tolerated, and, in fact, it’s a view that’s so divisive and so intolerable that it’s the kind of thing you can’t say and expect to keep your job.”

Christians Speak Out

Many Christians also took issue with how Berger was let go. They turned the situation around to accuse CrossFit of being “intolerant” against an employee who “expressed his personal religious beliefs on his personal account.”

Among Berger’s staunchest defenders were prominent Christian pastors such as Franklin Graham. “I’m proud of Russell for being bold and standing on God’s Word, no matter the cost. That takes guts. Join me in praying for him. As Christians, we all need to love people enough to tell them the truth,” the evangelist said in a widely-shared Facebook post.

Conservative author Rod Dreher offered another take, writing:

“Gay activists and their supporters among the gym’s employees destroyed this Christian’s business, not because he wouldn’t allow gays to work out at the gym, but because he would not permit them to celebrate gay Pride there. They shattered his business overnight without filing a charge or a lawsuit, but solely by using the power of stigma and collective action.”

“God’s Word” Vs. Respecting Others

Despite marked improvement in the area of LGBT rights, stories like these are still common across the country. Some involve only minor offenses, but others are shockingly blatant.

While devout religious folks like Berger regularly take to social media to voice opposition to the LGBT community, they are rarely able to properly explain or justify their views beyond blindly quoting scripture. Simply insisting that “God told me to hate them” might be a convincing argument in religious circles, but it’s not going to win over many people in the general public.

If the goal is to boost support for their views, Christians might have more success if they stopped telling other people how to live their lives and instead focused on bettering themselves. A little respect goes a long way.

 

39 comments

  1. Carl Elfstrom says:

    I bet there are a lot of gay Christians who don’t agree with his beliefs. A retired gay methodist minister once told me that the story of Sodom and Gamorra didn’t have anything to do with homosexuality, but about the men not being hospitable to travelling strangers in their town, which was the custom during that period.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      They persecuted gay people for far too long. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and Jesus isn’t protecting them from their karmic retribution. So let’s see how loud they can cry.

  2. Frank Villari says:

    Buddhist might refer to this as “karma.” It is an example of God’s punishment for judging others. Just because you have freedom of speech, scripture does not give you a free pass to judge others. Judgement is the purview of God. You are entitled to your own beliefs, and sometimes you need to temper your desire to voice them. Give unto God that which is God’s, and to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. In between doing this, learn to keep your mouth shut.

    1. Frank Villari says:

      “the owners of the gym value health and wellness, and they believe that this event does not.” And, what the hell does this mean? Working our asses off doesn’t give us “health and wellness” either, yet they don’t cancel workouts because of that. If you’re canceling because everyone in the workout are gay and won’t be attending, then say that

  3. T'Keren Valmaz says:

    People really need to understand that freedom of speech is not really applicable to non media non government platforms. That is where and what that freedom is for to insure we can speak out against a corrupt government.

    When it comes to personal interactions, its about the unwritten rules of civility and being good to each other simply because there is no good excuse for disrespecting another based on archaic texts that have been intentionally mistranslated and edited for many centuries by those that seek to use religion as a one world government.

  4. Red says:

    It’s a damn shame that Christians in this country can no longer express their deeply held beliefs without being attacked. Sure, maybe it’s an outdated view, but if we get everyone who doesn’t approve of the gay lifestyle fired that will only build resentment and animosity.

    1. Jeremy says:

      Oh please Red, this guy is a hateful person and his comments prove it. Just because you claim to be a Christian doesn’t mean you’re not an ***hole, and most employers have the right to fire anyone they please. This wasn’t the “grave injustice” you make it out to be.

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        Talk about resentments. Just saying.

    2. Carl Elfstrom says:

      A lot of Christians don’t hold the same deep beliefs as other Christians.

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        And some so-called ministers don’t know the difference between spirituality and a whole in the ground, the kind that goes all the way down to Hell.

        1. Keith Mitchell says:

          Some people don’t know the difference between “whole” and “hole”.

          1. Joe Flabenowitz says:

            wow…..I almost forgot this was the internet.

  5. Carl Elfstrom says:

    About that ***hole word. I’ve heard it takes one to know one. A lot of people project onto others what they don’t want to see in themselves.

  6. Joe Flabenowitz says:

    I will only add that God is the ultimate judge, and I can’t and won’t pass judgement on gays or Christians…..some of which are the same. Not my job.

  7. Chris says:

    For centuries gays were locked up, persecuted, killed for being who they are. They had no voice to speak against the “Moral Majority” that still believes such treatment is justified and hide behind their bible. Now that they’re not being allowed to get away with discrimination and bigotry in the name of their deity they can’t handle it. What happened to the “Good ol’ days” when you could hate someone in the name of the Lord and not get in trouble for it? Those days are gone because people are getting tired of it.

    You’re still entitled to your opinion, no matter how wrong it is. Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. He dined with hookers and thieves and others that society condemned. Now, you don’t have to like gay people. You don’t have to associate with gay people. But you don’t get a pass on hatred or bigotry anymore. Your deity isn’t going to save you. Just because you practice hatred, bigotry, and intolerance in his name doesn’t mean he approves of it. It’s more likely all that is just adding more fuel to your own personal lake of fire rather than another floor to your mansion way up yonder.

    1. MaryJane Carmine-McMillin says:

      Amen Chris totally agree with you. God bless you 😇

    2. emanuel says:

      I couldn’t have said what “Chris” just said any better. 😀 Good job friend.

    3. bob fluetsch says:

      Jesus said He and His Father are one. His Father called homosexuality an abomination. So, though Jesus may have not verbalized His hatred of homosexuality, he certainly viewed it, also, as an abomination. Practicing homosexuality is sin . . . plain and simple. God judges the practice, not the person who doesn’t practice the disgusting aberation.

      1. Minister V says:

        No. Men called homosexuality an abomination. There is nothing in the 10 Commandments (written by god’s own hand) against being LGBT. But there’s a bit about bearing false witness. And then there were also Jesus’ words to “love one another” and that “what you do to the least amongst you, you do to me”.

    4. Reverand Raymond Smith says:

      Very well said, Chris

  8. Ura Flosnake says:

    If you’re an employee of a private company, you do not have the “right” under any Constitution to flap your gums on personal views. You absolutely have the right to say what you want on your time or time other than company paid time. Akin to handing out Burger King flyers at a McDonalds when you work there. The company pays you to follow their rules and they have the absolute right (even in a unionized place).

    1. Jennifer Kemper says:

      I agree.

  9. Ura Flosnake says:

    It’s not a public forum.

  10. Ura Flosnake says:

    A private company has every right to make policies governing their employees conduct while on company time. You can’t hand out Burger King flyers on company time while working at McDonalds. Practice free speech on your own time.

  11. Ura Flosnake says:

    ***PS. I apologize for the multiple, broken reply. My computer was acting up and it appeared the reply was just disappearing.

    1. Donna says:

      Technically, it doesn’t say if he voiced his opinion on company time or his own time, but it does say he used his personal Twitter account to voice his personal opinion, not a company account.

      Does the company have the right to terminate over the backlash his personal opinions caused, yes.

      However, I’ve witnessed horrible, hateful discrimination against other groups of people on public media, and these people were applauded for their comments. Who knows where this will all end.

      I plead for all of us to put II Chronicles 7:14 into action. It’s hard to defame anyone when you’re praying for the individual’s, group’s, or country’s best interests. Let us be doers of good instead of evil.

      1. JV says:

        I’ve signed several company contracts in this millennium that specifically state that as an hourly or salaried employee I could not defame the company or even comment on it in any way or on any of its employees in personal / private online discussions, emails, etc. If determined to be inflammatory by the company, it’s grounds for termination. This is very, very old news practiced by just about every company out there.

  12. Gary Minnis says:

    When you walk into a job, you don’t leave your first amendment protection at the door. I do agree that there is responsibility that comes with opening ones mouth. (Or typing in this case.) Having said that, just because I don’t agree with you, doesn’t make me a bigot, or homophobic. And just because I say that I don’t agree with someones lifestyle doesn’t make it ‘hate speech’ . And ALL of you passing judgment on this man should be ashamed of yourselves. You are no different than he is. There is so much bias against ‘Christians’ in the US it is staggering. Other religions (even though they hang gays by ropes from light-posts, beat them to death or otherwise just shoot them. If you don’t believe me GOOGLE it.) seem to get a pass on their hatred and bigotry.

  13. Bill Fox says:

    Judeo-Christian scripture is quite clear about perversion. Sex between anyone other than a married man and woman (to each other) is forbidden and consider perversion. A business owner should either follow his beliefs and not have a business, or accept that the public is not subject to his religious beliefs.

    1. Joe Flabenowitz says:

      Thanks Bill, it IS that simple.

  14. Joe Flabenowitz says:

    At least to some.

  15. Christian says:

    Why are some people so fixated on sodomy & anal sex ?

    Not really an important topic.

    Focus on doing real good for people,
    healing the sick, feeding the poor, etc.
    if you want to make the world a happier place.

    Rectums are not a big concern
    except for G.I. Doctors healing their patients from Cancer.

    In related news,
    Vitamin D plays an
    important part to GI health.

    Live Well !

    1. bob fluetsch says:

      Yeah . . . . . too much attention given to homosexuality. It’s just a ‘pain in the ass’ for lots of people.

  16. Gwendolyn Lord says:

    Scripture is clear that sex is only for married couples? What a laugh! There is more sex in the Bible, up to and including polyamory and incest than in ten xxx movies! Sex is the union of two adults who desire each other (and ideally care for each other.) Gender is a variable, and sexual identity is not fixed, nor has it been through out history ,and in the animal world.Science and medicine, hormones and biological factors determine sexual identity and preferences, as well as perhaps, DNA. If all these scripture quoting morons had ever read a book besides the bible, or studied anything but that book, there might be a more intelligent conversation about gender (which is a spectrum, rather than a duality, and sexuality, which even in the 1960’s Masters and Johnson identified as fluid and situational. (See also:Dr. John Money on gender identity, Johns Hopkin’s University Press.)

    1. bob fluetsch says:

      You’re speak with a forked tongue . . . . and stay on the subject. You don’t know your Bible. Sex IS for married couples, male and female. And, yes, there were numerous deviations from God’s instructions, which is another different subject. And the violations of God’s teachings on sex do NOT give credibility to the abhorrent, unnatural, and detestable sexual conduct to which you’re referring

  17. Sherri Lawton says:

    I would like all who have commented here to read this entire conversation as I have done, and see how nonsensical ALL of the quotations from all the sources are. This is why I have founded my ministry on helping all to let go of the religious gobbledygook they think they understand, and only live every aspect of your lives following these words, and no others: Do into others as you would have them do into you. These 11 words are what I call The Way, as I name my ministry, and ask you all to set down your bibles/ torahs/talmuds/korans,/etc as they all in their ways preach hate toward others for various reasons based on what some old men a long long time ago supposedly said. The Golden Rule predates all organized religions today and truly is The Way.

    1. bob fluetsch says:

      Sherri: JESUS said. ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. NO man comes to the Father but by Me.’ Sorry you’re off track from reality and truth. Human reasoning, nice sounding platitudes, situational ethics or whatever NEVER supersedes God’s Word.

  18. Sherri Lawton says:

    Excuse me but I’m not wearing my glasses … of course I mean ” Do unto.. “. If everyone lived by this credo, in every day and every wsy, the world would not be as hateful as it is. My website based on my ministry is under construction, but will soon be actively showing all what I mean when I show them how hateful, divisive, and entirely wrong-minded and self-serving all of the world’s religions are.

  19. Sherri Lawton says:

    Come on, Bob, you’re not really that simple-minded, are you? Your god says one thing, hers says another, his yet another, yada, yada, yada. My point, which you missed entirely, is all deities are man-made and confabulated by mostly old men, and the only real Way is how we all treat every living thing, every day. Let go of all that superstitious nonsense most of us grew up with, and take this chance for personal growth, I implore you.

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