Teacher claims he wasn't hired at CHCA because of his sexual orientation

CINCINNATI - 9 News is looking into a claim of discrimination against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.

Jonathan Zeng says he was offered a job with Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy teaching music at their downtown location, the Armleder School, but because of his sexual orientation, wasn't hired.

Zeng claims that before he was officially hired he had to meet with the head of the school and the board for final approval.

He said a board member called him back in for a meeting to talk about religious questions on his application. 

"In those answers I talked about Christ's unconditional love and I talked about how we as followers of Christ, are ultimate goal is to show that love to everyone without judgment," Zeng said.

During the meeting, Zeng claims he was questioned about whether he was a homosexual.

"I was shocked and surprised," he said.

Zeng asked why he was being asked the question. He says the administrator said it was school policy not to employ teachers who are homosexual because of the work with children and the sanctity of marriage.

Zeng was offended and hurt by the comments. He told administrators he was homosexual and claims he wasn't offered the job because of it.

Zeng wrote a detailed letter he sent to the school obtained by 9 News.

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.

9 News reached out to the school about the allegation and school officials provided us with this statement.

CHCA keeps confidential all matters discussed within a candidate's interview. We're looking into this matter, although the initial information we have seen contains inaccuracies. We will not be discussing individual hiring decisions or interviews.

Zeng is getting support from the local Human Rights Council.

"Right here in Ohio, unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transgender individuals can be fired from their job simply because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity so this example and this issue today, just demonstrates the need that protections are in place for these types of issues," explained Jeff Caywood, a board member of the Human Rights Campaign. "It's not just here in Ohio, it's in 30 states across the U.S., you can discriminate someone based upon their sexual orientation or there gender identity, so there are not protections in place for LGBT employees in the workplace."

A local attorney, Kendall Isaac, who is also a law professor further explains there is no current law that legally protects homosexuals in the workplace.

"Title 7 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, but there is nothing in there that mentions sexual orientation. There is currently no law that protects gay employees."

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The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Cincinnati released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Cincinnati are calling on the Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy to do the right thing and not discriminate against LGBT candidates in their hiring practices. Last week, the school extended a verbal offer to Jonathan Zeng for a position at their Armleder School in Cincinnati, and several hours later rescinded the offer of employment after directly questioning Mr. Zeng about his sexual orientation – and learning that he is gay.

Cincinnati includes sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination protections. However, HRC respects that Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, as a religious school, is exempt under the law. But that doesn't make their action morally right. Polling last year found that 86 percent of Christians believed the very tenets of their faith compelled them to support protections for LGBT people under the law. HRC and Equality Cincinnati are calling on members and supporters to contact the CHCA administration and Board of Trustees, urging them to do the right thing and hire the most qualified candidates for open jobs – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"The majority of Christians and people of faith believe LGBT people deserve dignity, respect, and equal protections under the law," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "The Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy put Jonathan Zeng through an interview process and concluded he was one of the best people for the job. Jonathan's sexual orientation should in no way change that assessment, but the school appears to have taken Jonathan out of the running simply because he was gay. This is an injustice to both Jonathan and the CHCA community – it sends

the message to students that there's something wrong with being gay."

"My dealings with the Armleder community have by in large been welcoming, kind, and professional," said Jonathan Zeng. "In my interview, I discussed extensively both my education philosophy and how my faith shaped me. Unfortunately, I now believe CHCA's stated practice of not hiring openly LGBT people to serve as educators stands in direct contradiction with the school's values and mission statement, and also in direct contradiction of the values we as Christians are called to promote."

Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy touts diversity as one of its most important values on the institution's website. Speaking to their goal of embracing diversity, the school says: "CHCA is committed to a culture that celebrates diversity. We recognize that each person is uniquely created in the image of God, and our community should reflect the diversity and unity of the Kingdom of God. In order to prepare our students for success in life, we desire to instill in them an appreciation for and willingness to learn from those with backgrounds different than their own. Our dedication to diversity is reflected in our core values, which affirm our belief in the value of each person and our commitment to a vibrant sense of community."

Following reporter Annette Peagler on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AnnetteWCPO .

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