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Cincinnati Christian School Asks Teacher if He's Gay, Fires Him: VIDEO

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Jonathan Zeng, a singer and music teacher from Cincinnati, was offered a teaching job at Cincinnati Hills, a nondenominational Christian academy, which he accepted. Several hours later he was called in, asked if he is gay, and fired. He describes what happened after he accepted the job in a letter to the school board's trustees:

ZengShortly after the conclusion of this meeting, Mr. Thompson called and asked me to return to complete some necessary business they had forgotten. He explained that there was an issue weighing on his mind because of my application answers regarding my belief in Christ's unconditional love and that we as Christ's followers are to show that love to all without judgment. These responses prompted him to ask if I was a homosexual. I was completely taken aback by this and asked why that was important. He explained that it was school policy not to employ teachers who are homosexual. When I asked why, he said that it was because I would work with children and because of the sanctity of marriage. I can't begin to say how offensive and painful his comments were. I had no idea the school held such a viewpoint. Mr. Thompson was kind enough to offer me a ride, which I refused.

Towleroad has obtained a full copy of Zeng's letter and description of the incident.

Read it and watch a report from WCPO, AFTER THE JUMP...

Gannett reports:

Federal laws probably won’t protect Zeng from job discrimination on the basis that he is gay, but a local ordinance might, said Scott E. Knox, a Cincinnati lawyer who specializes in employment and discrimination law. He said Cincinnati’s Human Rights ordinance, which went into effect in 2006, makes it a criminal violation for Cincinnati employers to discriminate against someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

The penalty is, at most, a $1,000 fine, he said. The ordinance has not been used in court yet, he said. The ordinance also exempts religious institutions, he said, but it might still apply to a private school.

HRC has launched a petition letter to the school.

Make sure not to miss a Towleroad headline by following @TLRD on Twitter.

LETTER FROM JONATHAN ZENG

Dear Friends and supporters of Equality,

Last week, I experienced blatant discrimination because of my sexual orientation. Friday morning, I was offered a job with Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy teaching music at their downtown location, the Armleder School, a K-8 school. That afternoon, I was asked if I was a homosexual and told that because I would be working with children, and because of the sanctity of marriage, the school did not allow homosexual teachers. In response, I sent the following letter to the Board and leadership of the school. It details the events as they unfolded. We have come a long way. We have a long way to go! Please feel free to share this letter with anyone who may be associated with this school. Thank you!

-------------------------------------

My name is Jonathan Zeng. I was to be the new music teacher at the Armleder School next year. That is no longer the case. It is with disappointment and sadness that I write to you concerning what I believe to be a major stain on the Christ-Centered educational philosophy and mission of CHCA.

Upon learning of the music teacher opening at Armleder, I began to do some research. I was pleased to find on your website: "CHCA is a non-denominational school that places Christ in the center of all we do. Our focus is on the core essentials of historic Christianity. And while doctrinal distinctives may be discussed and studied in age-appropriate ways, those conclusions are left to families and their own particular faith communities." I was particularly happy to see that CHCA strives "to give students an appreciation for the diversity found within the Church universal." Your educational and spiritual mission, as portrayed on your website, is one with which I strongly agree. It appears to be an environment where music education can thrive, with the opportunity to infuse its academic and educational goals with the knowledge that music is a gift from God and a wonderful means for worship, praise, and expression.

My dealings with the Armleder community have by in large been welcoming, kind, and professional. It was a pleasure to meet with the initial interview panel. It was a joy to give a demonstration lesson to the 3rd grade music class. I was honored to hear from Cammie Montgomery that they had decided to offer me the position. My conversation with Randy Brunk & David Thompson was encouraging. We discussed my philosophy of music education, my personal faith, why I align myself with the United Church of Christ denomination, and how I would answer faith based questions in the classroom. I left that meeting happy to receive an invitation to join the Responsive Classroom Training Session Monday morning, June 4th.

Shortly after the conclusion of this meeting, Mr. Thompson called and asked me to return to complete some necessary business they had forgotten. He explained that there was an issue weighing on his mind because of my application answers regarding my belief in Christ's unconditional love and that we as Christ's followers are to show that love to all without judgment. These responses prompted him to ask if I was a homosexual. I was completely taken aback by this and asked why that was important. He explained that it was school policy not to employ teachers who are homosexual. When I asked why, he said that it was because I would work with children and because of the sanctity of marriage. I can't begin to say how offensive and painful his comments were. I had no idea the school held such a viewpoint. Mr. Thompson was kind enough to offer me a ride, which I refused.

It saddens me to think that your students' education is potentially being compromised because of your lack of embrace of true Christian diversity. I was chosen because the hiring committee felt I was the best possible candidate for the position. This opportunity was taken away simply because of how I was created. My sexual orientation has no impact on my teaching abilities or the words that I would say. I am appalled to think that the philosophy of your school would not allow a gay Christian to work with children - as Mr. Thompson stated.

While I would welcome a discussion of doctrine and real contextual understanding of the Old Testament's few mentions regarding homosexuality, mostly, I would love for all followers of Christ to understand that His example of unconditional love is paramount. I realize that this letter will likely not change minds. My goal is to bring to your attention the discrepancies between your printed values and the ones represented in your hiring practices - hiring practices that are discriminatory. If gay Christians are not permitted in your community, it needs to be clear. I would venture to say that many of your school families and supporters are unaware of this discriminatory policy. My heart goes out to the LGBT students, family members, and friends of CHCA who face being different in such an atmosphere.

Thank you for your attention regarding this matter. In keeping with your non-denominational standing and emphasis on diversity, please see the partial listing below of Christian denominations that are LGBT-affirming.

"There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?"
- James 4:12
Sincerely,
Jonathan Zeng

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Comments

  1. The spread of Christian "schools" really needs to be stopped. They're nothing but a threat to society. Education needs to be secular. End of story.

    Posted by: Steve | Jun 6, 2012 9:02:48 AM


  2. "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times." - attributed to Mark Twain.

    Posted by: Mitch | Jun 6, 2012 9:12:11 AM


  3. Good stuff, a response was required.

    Imagine being caught there however!

    Posted by: kenny | Jun 6, 2012 9:12:20 AM


  4. His web page shows a pretty extensive work experience for teaching music to third graders. They probably pay well. It's a shame they're going to end up with someone lousy in the position. Probably the football coach's wife.

    Posted by: MarkUs | Jun 6, 2012 9:47:01 AM


  5. Yes, because as we know, unconditional love and acceptance of all people has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus and Christianity! He's much better off not working for such sanctimonious hate mongers.

    Posted by: Jack M | Jun 6, 2012 9:53:17 AM


  6. @Steve: and how exactly do you intend to stop people from exercising their First Amendment constitutional rights to raise/educate their children with whatever religious beliefs they choose? Whether you like it or not, this school is a private religious institution and has every right to hire and fire whomever they please, if the person doesn't meet their religious/moral requirements. An out of wedlock mom would also be fired and have no recourse. These people have the right to their religious views.

    Posted by: Pedro | Jun 6, 2012 9:54:36 AM


  7. No. A school is NEVER a "religious institution". People need to get that through their heads. Churches are religious institutions. That status shouldn't extend to the businesses they run. The special privileges extended to church owned businesses has already done irreparable damage to American society. It's exactly that exemption from the law and any kinds of regulation that has turned the country into a a de facto theocracy.

    Freedom of religion only means that people won't be thrown in jail simply for what they believe in. It was never supposed to allow them to do whatever the hell they want and be accountable to no one but themselves.

    Posted by: Steve | Jun 6, 2012 10:04:44 AM


  8. He got fired by Christians for being gay? No kidding? You don't say! I never would have imagined, some Christians pushing a homophobic agenda like that :/

    Posted by: Will Welch | Jun 6, 2012 10:11:34 AM


  9. The country where I live all the schools are run by state or county and it is illegal to ask anyone their sexual orientation in any working place and fire anyone based on it (as long as it is legal orientation).

    Posted by: Matt26 | Jun 6, 2012 10:16:40 AM


  10. First, this is Cincinnati we're talking about here. As the commenter quoted Twain, it's about 20-30 years behind the times.

    This is a city that's the home of one of the most vicious hate groups in the country, Phil Burris' Citizens for Community Values.

    Thisa is the group who was able to send the propaganda film "Gay Rights, Special Rights" to *every black church in the city!

    The film (which is comparable to "The Eternal Jew"!) was instrumental in getting blacks to vote for Issue 3, which prohibited the city in enacting ANY ordinance protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation for 15 YEARS!

    I hope Johnathan can sue under the new ordinance which was passed a couple of years ago, but a TLBG person should *never* work for *any* religious school, as no doubt they'd be infested with bigoted fanatics.

    Posted by: Marlene | Jun 6, 2012 10:37:18 AM


  11. He had no idea a Christian school held that viewpoint? What planet is this guy from? I'm really quite tired of these stories of gay people who try to snuggle up to our worst enemies and then whine like babies when they get stung. There's such a thing as dealing with reality.

    Posted by: jomicur | Jun 6, 2012 10:43:43 AM


  12. This guy is a gay Christian. We're all super aware that there's a massive schism in the Christian church over how to deal with its gay members.

    But Mr. Zeng absolutely set himself up for this, and it was seemingly a battle he was prepared for. Hopefully he knows that he's got very little legal ground on which to stand.

    Private Christian schools have the right to hire instructors who conform to the beliefs and stated mission of the school's religious doctrine. Mr. Zeng's actions will certainly contribute to the dialogue -- and it's likely that in the future, we'll see Christian schools with gay-affirming beliefs just as we see some Christian churches with gay-affirming beliefs -- but his protections won't come from the law. They'll come from a super slow, evolving, generational set of beliefs within American christendom.

    Posted by: GMB | Jun 6, 2012 10:53:15 AM


  13. Damn good letter. I would have added something about the LIBELOUS assertion that gay men are a threat to children. Get their little "Christian" nerves jangled about a lawsuit.

    Their public face seems quite supportive, based on what he explains he read about them. The truth, of course, it that they're just bigoted and don't have the balls to say so -- or maybe don't actually have the support among the various denominations that form the school to say so.

    Posted by: BobN | Jun 6, 2012 11:18:46 AM


  14. Very telling that, when he spoke of unconditional love, it caused this "Christian" school to worry about him.

    Posted by: Brad | Jun 6, 2012 11:22:19 AM


  15. So... do they also fire/fail to hire teachers who are divorced? Widows who didn't marry their husband's brother (It's in the Bible, yo!).

    How about we pay more attention to the ACTUAL teachings of Christ--you know, that bit about not judging, and loving others, and maybe his parable from Matthew 25?

    I mean... just a thought, since Christian DOES mean "Christ like".

    Oh but I'm totally sure Jesus would've discriminated against Teh Gayz, so it's okay.

    (In seriousness, whatever happened to WWJD?)

    Posted by: Patrick | Jun 6, 2012 11:22:49 AM


  16. Two points:

    They get over half their budget from government grants.

    He teaches part-time at a Catholic school. I bet he loses that job by the end of the week :-(

    Posted by: BobN | Jun 6, 2012 11:30:49 AM


  17. What the devil do they expect music teachers to be? Especially music teachers who are especially good with school-age kids?

    For crying out loud. Keep your eyes closed, you, bigoted faux-christians, but this is one of the kinds of work God has given it to gay men to want to do, and you lame-wits haven't enough sense to be thankful for it.

    Posted by: Danny in the East Village | Jun 6, 2012 11:37:35 AM


  18. This is horrible. Ones sexual orientation should not dictate teaching ability. People need to learn that excluding someone or bullying someone for who they are is not anything positive. One being gay does not effect the life of another who is straight, bi etc. Lets worry about those murdering and raping people, rather then worry about ones sexual preference. People make me sick.

    Posted by: Nichole | Jun 6, 2012 11:38:37 AM


  19. 3 words : MOVE TO CANADA

    Posted by: Michel Filion | Jun 6, 2012 11:50:23 AM


  20. Yeah, I bet Thompson wanted to give him a ride alright! These closeted homophobic homosexuals are nauseating!

    Posted by: Matt | Jun 6, 2012 11:59:02 AM


  21. I think the best line in the response letter is the one in which he suggests that the school be more upfront about its irrational bigotry. I agree - let's get this all out in the open, where people can see what real bigotry exists against gay people. Then it will be very easy for people to choose sides. And we'll win.

    Posted by: Fritz | Jun 6, 2012 12:15:15 PM


  22. "I had no idea the school held such a viewpoint."

    Really? It's completely consistent with what most churches teach. Repugnant? Yes. But not unexpected or surprising.

    Posted by: jimstoic | Jun 6, 2012 12:59:12 PM


  23. Sadly, Mr. Zeng's entire issue here rests on a subtle, but reasonable, misunderstanding. When the Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy claims that they, "place Christ at the center of all we do," what they mean is that they place the word "Christ" at the center. The word "Christ" is held sacred and significant, even where the spirit, teachings, intentions, and perspective of the person Christ are wholly violated and used to excuse the worst excesses of the bigoted mind. There is an entire world of pseudo-Christianity out there that uses an intentionally distorted idea of Jesus as a thin veneer of justification for otherwise intolerable levels of prejudice.

    Posted by: Ekhart | Jun 6, 2012 1:04:34 PM


  24. Get outta here queer, har in Ohio weez only allow straight people to molestesses our chidren!

    Posted by: ScreaminMime | Jun 6, 2012 1:05:27 PM


  25. Hey, for the record, I am from Cincinnati and I do not support this homophobic behavior. While some Cincinnatians are morons, don't paint us all with the same brush!

    Posted by: Andrew | Jun 6, 2012 1:15:32 PM


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