July 4, 2011
SHEILA DABU NONATO
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

TORONTO — The Catholic Civil Rights League is standing by the human rights appeal of Damian Goddard, a sports anchor fired for his Catholic views on traditional marriage.

Goddard, a former host of Connected on Rogers Sportsnet, plans to file a human rights complaint against his former employer, Rogers Communication Inc.

"Mr. Goddard's case typifies a theme we hear all too often in other, lower-profile cases of workplace discrimination against people who do not support same-sex marriage on religious grounds," said Joanne McGarry, league executive director.

"We hope Damian's case will establish that freedom of religion and conscience, protected by the Civil Marriage Act of 2005, were meant to be given a robust interpretation."

Goddard posted comments in early May on his Twitter account supporting Burlington, Ont., hockey agent Todd Reynolds for criticizing the New York Rangers' Sean Avery. Avery appeared in a TV ad in New York State in support of same-sex marriage. (New York legalized same-sex marriage on June 24.)

"I completely and wholeheartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and true meaning of marriage," Goddard tweeted.

Rogers Sportsnet denounced Goddard's comments and Rogers Communications fired the 15-year sports broadcasting veteran a day later. Rogers said Goddard was a freelance contractor and that plans were already afoot to replace him.

"My message to the millions of Canadians participating in social media is that 'this can happen to you,'" Goddard said in a statement.

"I was terminated 24 hours after expressing a widely held opinion from my personal Twitter account — an opinion consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church. And an opinion that is supposed to be protected by Canada's constitution."

"We believe this sudden and very public termination represents a clear violation of Damian's freedom of speech and his freedom of religion - two fundamental rights that are supposed to be afforded to every Canadian," said William Gale, a partner with employment and labour law firm Grosman, Grosman & Gale.

The legal firm is representing Goddard in the matter.

"Critics on Twitter were calling for his head because he expressed a commonly held opinion that they didn't like," Gale said.

"Rogers answered that call swiftly and publicly. By doing so, they cemented the impression that his Catholic beliefs are inappropriate and grounds for dismissal.

"We also contend that unless it is challenged, this 'termination after a tweet' threatens to set a dangerous precedent for all Canadians in this still-evolving world of social media."