A Christian summer camp in Washington state acknowledged that it fired a camp counselor after discovering he is gay, The Bellingham Herald reported Thursday.
Jace Taylor, 18, said he was expecting to start work this weekend as a camp counselor at Fircreek, a local day camp run by a faith-based nonprofit organization called The Firs.
However, he was fired Tuesday after he posted a picture of himself and his boyfriend on social media. Taylor, who attended the camp for more than a decade, said he was shocked by the decision.
“I feel betrayed in a way. I was loved and accepted there,” Taylor said in an interview with the newspaper. “I’m just really discouraged and confused and angry with what has happened, but mostly I felt betrayed by a second family.”
Taylor’s father, James, posted a “Very Angry Protective Dad rant” in defense of his son on Facebook and the incident quickly gained the attention of local media.
Tom Beaumont, the executive director of The Firs, confirmed in a statement to The Bellingham Herald that Taylor was fired for his sexual orientation.
“Just recently we extended an invitation for a young man well known and loved at The Firs to serve as a counselor at Fircreek (our day camp program). When it became evident in the process that he did not personally align with our statements of faith (in particular, one regarding sexuality) and could not sign the agreement all are required to sign he subsequently was disqualified from being a counselor,” Beaumont said in a statement.
“Our quandary was this. In order to be consistent to our beliefs and our mission we felt compelled to pass on someone we truly liked for this counselor role. I sincerely wish this was otherwise. I know this may be confusing and contrary to your beliefs,” he said.
The Firs Bible and Missionary Conference is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that ended 2017 with $4.6 million in assets, according to state records obtained by the newspaper.
There is no federal law that expressly prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, NBC reported.
LGBTQ employees, however, point to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of “sex” to file legal action against employers.
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether to review three of those cases, which were decided in appeals courts, to make a ruling on whether sex discrimination covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
NBC noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an independent federal agency that enforces federal anti-discrimination law, determined during the Obama administration that sex discrimination should be included in discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The U.S. House last month approved for the first time legislation banning anti-LGBT discrimination by expanding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination in employment, housing, jury selection and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
House Democratic leadership has renewed its promise to pass the Equality Act, which would directly add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Denise Diskin, the executive director of QLaw Foundation, told the Herald that Washington state law is currently written in a way that makes it legal for religious nonprofits to deny employment based on one's sexual orientation.
She said the only religious protection afforded to religious employers is that they can require the employee to be of a certain faith to apply for a job.
Taylor told the outlet that he was aware that The Firs was a faith-based organization that had a doctrinal statement condemning homosexuality on the website when he applied.
“We believe in the institution of marriage defined in Scripture as the covenantal union between one man and one woman. We believe that the Christian standard is faithfulness within that marriage covenant and abstinence outside of it,” the website states.
He said he still applied because he wanted to potentially make a change and “show them that Christ loves everyone and accepts everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are.”
He plans to picket the camp on the first day — June 24.
“We want to continue talking with people and working with the community of spreading the word, and just showing in general, discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation is not acceptable and is a basic violation of human rights,” Taylor said.
Updated June 15, 1:40 p.m.