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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