Arizona Christian school sued for firing pro-LGBT teacher
Adam McDorman claims the school discriminated against LGBTQ-friendly views
A Phoenix-area high school and one of its former teachers are clashing over conflicting ideas about the treatment of an LGBT student.
In a complaint filed in federal court on Dec. 27, Adam McDorman claimed that administrators at Chandler’s Valley Christian School dismissed him for defending a female student. The student posted on social media in the fall of 2021 that she was “pansexual”—someone attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender.
According to McDorman, Valley Christian High School Principal Josh LeSage found out about the student’s post and met with her along with Chizzy Anderson, the school’s coordinator of student health and wellness.
McDorman objected to the meeting, arguing that LeSage should be more accepting of the LGBT population, especially Valley Christian students, and suggested that a gay pastor from the area be invited to the meeting. LeSage declined. In the meeting, which the student recorded, LeSage was sympathetic toward the student, yet he explained that a homosexual lifestyle was counter to the Bible’s teaching.
LeSage told the female student that God might or might not take away her sexual desire for other girls. “But I believe that in either circumstance, you can honor God with what you choose to do with your body because the Word of God says the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives inside of you,” he told her.
With over 1,000 students, Valley Christian is one of the largest Christian schools in the nation and the largest in Arizona. Students and faculty must subscribe to the school’s mission and values, which include basic Christian doctrines and a statement on marriage and sexuality. “Rejection of one’s biological gender is a rejection of the image of God within that person,” reads the statement, which goes on to reject any sexual conduct outside marriage between one man and one woman. “If a student advocates or practices lifestyles outlined in this paragraph and does not repent of it, they likely will not be retained as a student at VCS,” it adds.
McDorman contends that he was terminated by VCS solely because of his sincerely held Christian belief about tolerance and acceptance of LGBT persons. His legal challege is partly rooted in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a federal law that bars discrimination on the basis of age, sex, national origin, or religion. But Title VII permits private, religious institutions like VCS to make employment decisions on the basis of religion.
It is unclear how McDorman intends to argue that the school’s decision to fire him is not subject to Title VII’s religious exemption. He may assert that Title VII’s religious exemption is not applicable, as he was not fired because he was not a Christian but because of his different Christian view of how LGBT-identifying students should be treated. In March 2021, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving a gay lawyer who claimed he was not hired by Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission for its legal clinic because he disagreed with its position on sexuality and marriage. The case remains pending over the right of religious organizations to hire only those whose beliefs align with those of the organization.
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