Calvary Believer Reinstated while Virginia School Case Continues
By Christmas Beeler
Suspended for his religious convictions, a Calvary Chapel believer and schoolteacher in Virginia was temporarily reinstated Tuesday after making national news for taking a stand for children, his faith, and the First Amendment.
Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School and member of Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, had been suspended from his position less than 48 hours after speaking up in a public meeting. One week after a suit was filed on Tanner’s behalf against the school board, the Loudoun County Circuit Court on Tuesday halted Loudoun County Schools’ retaliation against the teacher. The story has made national headlines and events have played out quickly in the last two weeks.
Tanner’s legal advocate, Alliance Defending Freedom, released a statement Tuesday from ADF President and CEO Michael Farris: “Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy. For that reason, we are pleased at the court’s decision to halt Loudoun County Public Schools’ retaliation against Tanner Cross while his lawsuit continues. Educators are just like everybody else—they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs. School officials singled out his speech, offered in his private capacity at a public meeting, as ‘disruptive’ and then suspended him for speaking his mind. That’s neither legal nor constitutional. Dozens of other teachers have shared their beliefs on various policies without retaliation; Tanner deserves to be treated with the same respect.”
During a FOX News interview today, Tanner replied, “We’re so happy. There’s lots of tears, lots of hugs. We’re just happy that we were reinstated, and I look forward to going back to serve Leesburg Elementary.”
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
How it Began
In late May, at a Loudoun County School Board meeting, Tanner respectfully voiced concerns about a proposal to require teachers to use elementary students’ chosen pronouns rather than those of their biological sex.
At the May 25 meeting, Cross cited both a recent news report and his religious convictions. “I’m speaking out of love for those who suffer from gender dysphoria. ‘60 Minutes’ this past Sunday interviewed over 30 young people who transitioned, but they felt led astray because of lack of pushback or how easy it was to make physical changes to their bodies in just three months. They are now de-transitioning.” In the segment, experts and teens elaborated on the harm that can come in being too hasty in assessing and treating young people suffering from gender dysphoria.
“It’s not my intention to hurt anyone. … I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences. I’m a teacher, but I serve God first. And I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl, and vice versa, because it’s against my religion. It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.” Tanner attends Cornerstone Chapel, a Calvary affiliate in Leesburg, VA, under Pastor Gary Hamrick.
A Quick Suspension
Within 48 hours, the school placed Tanner on administrative leave “pending an investigation of allegations that [he] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations” of the school. In response to that letter, ADF requested that they “reinstate Cross, rescind the suspension and remove the letter from his file, and refrain from any future retaliation against protected speech if the district wished to avoid legal action.”
When the school board refused, ADF—representing Tanner—filed a lawsuit June 1. “Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold, nor do they have the right to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer.
Counselor Tyson added during today’s FOX News interview following his legal victory that he believes Tanner will be able to keep his job. “We think the law is clear, and we think the facts are clear. The School Board rushed to judgement. They punished Tanner simply because a few parents disagreed with Tanner’s views. That’s not how it should be. Schools are very diverse, and we should be able to live together and have our diverse views. And teachers shouldn’t be punished simply for sharing those views at a public forum.”
Church Unified in Support
Tanner’s church has rallied behind him throughout the dispute. Pastor Gary Hamrick vocalized support of Tanner, even joining him on the national podcast Washington Watch with Tony Perkins. Gary said: “This is what living out your faith is all about. It is applying what we know to be true from God’s Word to everyday life. Here it is, and we have to be ready to be salt and light.”
At Cornerstone, petitions to recall certain school board members were supplied without coercion for members to sign. Pastor Gary met with Tanner and his wife and prayed with them. “Then on Sunday, I had them up in front of the congregation so we could all pray for them and all encourage them.” A few days later, the church held a peaceful rally in support of Tanner.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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