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

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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
Sincerely,
Jonathan Zeng

Comments

  1. Steve says

    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.

  2. Mitch says

    “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.

  3. MarkUs says

    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.

  4. Jack M says

    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.

  5. Pedro says

    @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.

  6. Steve says

    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.

  7. Will Welch says

    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 :/

  8. Matt26 says

    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).

  9. Marlene says

    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.

  10. jomicur says

    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.

  11. GMB says

    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.

  12. BobN says

    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.

  13. Patrick says

    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?)

  14. BobN says

    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 :-(

  15. Danny in the East Village says

    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.

  16. Nichole says

    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.

  17. Fritz says

    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.

  18. Ekhart says

    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.

  19. Andrew says

    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!

  20. andrew says

    Jonathan you lucked out. Run from those bible believers. They are crazy. Go get a job in a good suburban public schools where your talents will be appreciated and you can earn a good living.

  21. j from canada says

    @Michael Filion

    I wish moving to Canada was the solution. Our 100% publicly funded Catholic School System can absolutely make a decision not to hire based on sexual orientation since to be a teacher in a public Catholic school you need to be a fully-fledged Catholic (i.e.: not (openly) gay). We have a wonder part of our constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that expressly states that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation…except, that these rules don’t apply to the previously existing part of the constitution which is the bit the enshrines the rights of the Catholic schools boards to basically do as they wish.

    @JIMSTOIC

    “It’s completely consistent with what most churches teach.”
    …maybe in the southern part of the US. While not a Christian myself, I have worked (as a musician) in numerous churches in Canada. For most denominations, having gay music directors and ministers is a non-issue…but perhaps it would be different in different parts of the country (i.e.: the parts that are strongly Conservative).

  22. andy says

    It’s really hard for me to feel sympathy for gay xtians. It’s pretty much the same kind of self-loathing gay republicans have. Stop trying to water down their religion to the point of you being allowed to exist and go thrive in the secular world. Let the xtian creatons’ insulated world shrivel and die from their own inability to adapt to modern times.

  23. JKT says

    Sorry @Pedro, @Steve is right. If this school has a legal standing to teach students in lieu of them attending public schools, then they cannot have “religious” standing. They are a school in the eyes of the law, and must abide by any regulations that public schools do. That includes discrimination.

  24. Todd says

    Why would Mr. Zeng want to work for an organization that does not share his views on such a personal matter? I am a supporter of all gay rights, but just as Mr. Zeng has a right to apply to any school or organization, those private organizations should also retain their right to hire and fire whomever they chose for whatever reason they deem credible. Diversity does not mean that everyone must embrace a certain set of values, diversity is about allowing people to embrace the values they choose without fear of sanction. Obviously they would be better off hiring a teacher with Mr. Zeng’s experience, but if their moral objections are more important than giving their children the best teachers available, that’s their choice to be foolish. Mr. Zeng would be better off teaching elsewhere.

  25. IonOtter says

    I applaud his courage in applying at a supposedly “Christian” indoctrination facility. I wish more GLBT people would do this, and force more supposedly “Christian” employers to join the modern world.

    In that light, I feel he has every right to feel sad, upset and offended. Employers in the United States of America are SUPPOSED TO OBEY THE LAW, and it should be assumed, at all times, that they *will* obey the law, without fail, without question.

    That way, should they fail to obey the law, we can squash them into financial paste with a legal sledgehammer.

  26. Mary says

    Steve, I understand your frustration. But Mr. Zeng knows the history of Christianity. He should have inquired about the school’s policy toward hiring gay faculty. The fact is that most Christian denominations view homosexuality as sinful behavior. They can’t be expected to change their theology because society changed. Theological changes don’t come about this way. There are some Christian denominations that do support gay rights. He could have limited his employment to a school from one of these denominations.

    Your views about religious schools seem to indicate that religious schools should be shut down completely. Wouldn’t this hinder the ability of people to pass their religious heritage on to their children? The Supreme Court already ruled early in the 20th century that parents have the right to send their children to private or religious schools. I really don’t see the Courts changing this policy. Are you implying that the state is responsible for education exclusively and that only government-run schools qualify as “real” schools.

    This isn’t tolerance. It is secularism run amok. And its logical conclusion is the belief that religion itself is dangerous and should be driven underground. Not sure if that’s what you intend, but it does follow from your assumptions.

  27. Kevin says

    If I may add insight to this, what has actually happened is people who Christians have made a wrong interpretation to gays. Yes in the Bible it says being gay is wrong. But no where in there does it say that gays can’t be Christians. Not only this it doesn’t even say that we are to hate them. It is as simple as that.

    Now for all you hotheaded idiots who won’t listen to anyone, if I want to have a school for deaf people I can make one right? Nothing says I can’t. It is the same for religious schools. They are made for people who have the same belief. Sort of like an extension of a church. Also freedom of religion is expressed as th ability to believe in what you want. Right? But the issue here is are churches going to far? Yes and no. Because most of the constitution is very vague about what they want as laws it all depends on how you interpret it. So if you have gone to church and still are it is very moving what they say and the is also so you can think “Hey everyone needs to know this” so you reach out it is normal for churches to do that. But any way all I am saying is that what the Bible says and what people think is completely different

  28. DB says

    I’m a little surprised that some of the respondents here are confused about the policy of most Christian churches. Yes, many fundamentalist Evangelical groups and new sects, along with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, do discriminate against gay Christians. However, most mainstream and traditional Christian denominations (e.g. mainline Protestant Christians) try to follow Christ, recognize that God loves His gay and heterosexual children equally, allow openly gay pastors or priests, and celebrate gay Christian marriages. I don’t know why Towleroad did not include the list in the letter. Some Christian denominations that welcome gay people include United Church of Christ, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Disciples of Christ, Quaker, Metropolitan Community Church, and Unitarians. Many American Baptist, Methodist, Reformed, and Moravian churches are also supportive. Non-Roman Catholic denominations are largely supportive and even some Evangelical congregations now celebrate gay Christian marriages.

  29. JAMES in Toronto says

    …and don’t blame the victim.

    The Christians have whitewashed their public image to the point that no one in the general public expects that kind of bigotry from them.

  30. coemgenus says

    Are private schools in the USA exempted from equality legislation then?

    Would they be able to discriminate racially against a teacher as well as sexually?

    Just because they are a private school would they be allowed to insult a black teacher on “religious” grounds?

    Very difficult to get one’s head around from a UK perspective.

    Is this another example of the free-ride that “religions” get in the USA?

    Luckily, over here, despite a few exemptions installed by the religious creep Blair, one can ultimately drag these people screaming in front of the courts.

    Sounds awful.

  31. namename says

    No funding for private schools, and force them to adhere to federal discrimination and civil rights laws.

    If those two prongs are well enforced it should address discriminatory practices where they arise… but certainly public media scrutiny to make them uncomfortable with their bigotry helps too! (no sarcasm)

  32. plutosdad says

    So the words “unconditional love” is now code for Gay. At least the christians at this academy have come out of the closet and admitted that they do NOT believe in unconditional love. If they see that someone believes that and immediately think something must be “wrong” with that person.

    Now we have the proof of what we have always suspected

  33. chuck says

    To the Far-Right, public schools were always cesspools of Liberalism. Religious schools allowed them to constrain what their kids thought. Now the Right is trying to take over the public schools and impose their version of Sharia Law.

  34. says

    While Cincinnati Hills might not have violated any federal laws by allegedly refusing to hire Zeng because of his sexual orientation, the school’s decision not to hire him because he is gay could be the first use of Cincinnati’s Human Right ordinance. Even if the local ordinance is used in court, the fine does not seem substantial enough to discourage similar discrimination by other institutions. If anything, Zeng’s case demonstrates the need for Congress to pass the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would offer more protection to workers discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

  35. CHCA-Alumn says

    As a recent CHCA graduate (class of 2010) I would like to make a few comments. First, I do not think what CHCA did was right. I think homosexuality and heterosexuality are no different morally (given that I’m an atheist, I think Biblical condemnations carry no weight). Second, I think this issue paints an unrealistic image of the school as ultraconservative and fundamentalist. In my time at CHCA I found that many of my teachers to be open-minded and loving people. In fact, some of the most progressive teachers I knew were our Bible teachers, several of whom encouraged us to really examine Biblical passages condemning homosexuality and consider the arguments of some Christian thinkers who claimed that the Bible doesnt really condemn it. They also encouraged us not to think of the Bible as a science textbook and to consider that it may contain vestigial cultural ideas that didn’t need to be part of true Christianity. Certainly, there were some fundamentalists, but most teachers, I would say, were not. Unfortunately most of the school officials are (including my dad).

  36. Luke says

    not only that but it was implied that merely because he wa gay, he was therfore a pedophile. i still do not understand what the sanctity of mariage has to do with his job

  37. St. Theresa of Avila says

    Thank you, CHCA-Alum. It’s reassuring that at least some Christian schools are doing such a good job at teaching their charges critical reasoning, that they are atheists 2 years after graduation! I’m sorry…ALL religions are shams. It’s so obvious that unless someone is indoctrinated into them, they were never hold any appeal. The central tenets of Christianity (& the other Abrahamic religions, and of Eastern religiosn too) are a hodge-podge of a few nice ideas (the golden rule) and a whole lot of complete hooey.
    A modern MLM marketing scheme masquerading as a religion (scientology) has to embellish with pseudo-scientific gibberish (E-meters IIRC?) to start the hard sell. But once they get in the open door (never open the door! that’s how they claim your soul! LOL) that indefatigable human need for order and structure takes over. And before you know it you’re jumping up & down on Oprah’s sofa. If Christianity had been “created” today, no doubt, the priests in the temple would have used the best CGI to tell the story. They’d have to because it’s a ridiculous story, that wasn’t even written down until over a hundred years after it supposedly took place. The bar was much lower 2000 years ago: if you faced life in a semi-desert, covered in lice and fleas and beset with internal parasites, no sanitation, starvation a constant threat along with violence from Roman soldiers or competing tribes…you’d want to believe a story of eternal life in the cool heavens, too. Word of mouth was good enough.

  38. Riely says

    HOW are they going to have a choir program at this school, if they don’t want gay people around? Choir teachers ARE, very often, gay. This should come as a surprise to no one, especially the administrators of the school!

  39. says

    GLBT people have no business putting themselves in harm’s way by accepting employment at religious educational institutions. Unfortunately religious schools have the right to discriminate. This is why HeartStrong (http://www.heartstrong.org) has been in existence for nearly 16 years… helping persecuted students at these schools worldwide.

  40. CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON says

    THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT MAKE CLEAR Jonathan Zeng SAID, “YES.” IT ONLY SAYS Mr. Zeng SAID, “…why that was important.” EITHER THIS ARTICLE IS LEAVING SOMETHING OUT, OR, Mr. Zeng GAVE UP WITHOUT A FIGHT. ALTHOUGH HE CAN SUE UNDER Cincinnati ORDINANCE, WHY DID Mr. Zeng PURSUE A TEACHING POSITION AT A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL? HE IS NAIVE.

    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  41. Shawn says

    It is a Christian School what on earth did the man expect? The only denomination that is remotely non-bigoted against gays is the Episcopal Church. I am surprised that they were at least honest about being bigots most “Christians” scoff at the idea. I always said I would rather be called a fag aloud then be told my relationship is a threat to society.

  42. CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON says

    I JUST READ Jonathan Zeng’s LETTER. SOME UNIVERSITIES OFFER DEGREES IN SACRED MUSIC. AS PART OF THE DEGREE PROGRAM – BACHELOR, MASTER AND DOCTORAL – STUDENTS ARE REQUIRED TO COMPLETE AN INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE AT A CHURCH. IF Mr. Zeng HAS ANOTHER TYPE OF MUSIC DEGREE, HE SHOULD HAVE CONSIDERED THIS OPTION AND SUPPLEMENTED A SACRED-MUSIC DEGREE WITH TEACHER LICENSURE. THE SACRED-MUSIC INTERNSHIP WOULD HAVE PROVIDED A NETWORK. THAT WAY, HE PROBABLY WOULD HAVE HAD A BETTER CHANCE OF GETTING EMPLOYMENT AT A RELIGIOUS SCHOOL.

    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

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