As we begin Pride Month, a far-right, anti-LGBTQ legal advocacy group that labels themselves a Christian advocacy organization is helping a suspended Virginia gym teacher get his job back.
If you only take a cursory glance at the news, it appears heartwarming that the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom offered their services to a teacher in need.
The reason for Leesburg Elementary teacher Tanner Cross’s suspension is that he said at a school board meeting last month he would not support his district’s proposed policy change on transgender students.
NBC News has the video of Cross speaking before the school board.
"It is not my intention to hurt anyone," Cross said. "But there are certain truths we must face. [The bills he doesn't support] will damage children and defy the image of God."
The school board is reviewing its policies in conjunction with a state mandate requiring all school systems to update their policies on transgender students. The model regulations circulated by the state include a requirement that students be addressed by their preferred pronouns.
In other words, Cross insists he will not address students the way they ask him to address them because God says so. The God who doesn't have anything to do with public policy in public schools, like the one that employs Cross. Don’t worry, though, he’s still getting paid while not working at the job whose rules he refuses to follow.
A Decades-Old Pattern
The Alliance Defending Freedom is a regular with cases like this. They have been around for three decades and have had their exploits well documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist and militia groups in the United States.
Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that has:
- Supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad
- Defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad
- Contended that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia
- Claimed that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society
These local news stories about teachers expressing anti-transgender views are oftentimes connected by more than cultural biases against transgender people. Those connections are often well-funded and managed by long-time legal professionals motivated to change the law to reflect their religion.
The simple solution? Just call kids by the names and pronouns they ask you to call them. They know themselves. You don’t.
Rob Samuelson is a Staff Writer at Education Post and Digital Media Manager for the brightbeam network.