A top CrossFit employee has been fired after applauding a gym that shut down a workout session supporting the LGBT community, saying “celebrating ‘pride’ is a sin.”
Russell Berger, who has been previously identified by The Washington Post as a head trainer and company spokesman, made the statement Wednesday on Twitter, after CrossFit Infiltrate in Indianapolis announced that gym ownership had canceled an event coinciding with Indy Pride. Berger thanked the gym for “standing by your convictions and refusing to celebrate sin by hosting an @indypride workout.”
“The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing,” he wrote in the now deleted tweets, according to CBS affiliate WTTV.
CrossFit did not immediately respond to a request for comment but said Wednesday on Twitter that Berger had been terminated.
The company added that Berger’s remarks “do not reflect the views of CrossFit Inc.”
When asked to explain his comments, Berger said Thursday that he used the word “sin” because “that’s what God’s Word calls it.”
“As a Christian, I believe everyone, myself included, is guilty of breaking our moral obligations to God and deserves punishment,” he said in a text message to The Post. “But by turning from our sin and trusting fully in Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven and reconciled to our creator. I love those who the LGBTQ community represents, and want them to know Christ, and reveling in sin is a heartbreaking obstacle to that.
“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.”
But Berger added that “the same theology that leads me to this view leads me to the knowledge that all humans are created in God’s image, and are therefore inherently valuable and deserve to hear this offer of God’s grace. From the Christian perspective, the most hateful thing I could do for someone would be to lie to him or her about sin and our need for Christ, as unpopular as this may be in our culture today.”
CrossFit’s announcement has drawn hundreds of comments from people debating Berger’s statements and the company’s response to them.
Many Twitter users thanked CrossFit for showing that “bigotry has consequences” and “homophobia has no place here.” Others, however, criticized the company for showing “intolerance” against a man who “expressed his personal religious beliefs on his personal account.”
Amid the backlash Wednesday, Berger had expressed his concerns about a “lack of tolerance for disagreement” on social media.
“The tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement toward dissent is an existential threat to freedom of expression,” Berger tweeted, according to WTTV. “The lack of tolerance for disagreement, which has been replaced with bullying Twitter mobs promising ‘consequences’ should be a concern regardless of your political stance.”
He added that “as someone who personally believes celebrating ‘pride’ is a sin, I’d like to personally encourage #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to host an @indypride workout.”
GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis praised CrossFit for its “swift action.”
Berger said Thursday that he regretted putting CrossFit in “a difficult position.”
“My comments where imprudent, and I drug my company in a difficult position, which I deeply regret,” he said in the text message. “I am particularly saddened for my employer and coworkers, who do incredible and life-changing work for millions of people, and are now forced to respond with their time and resources to this ordeal.”