Cincinnati musician and music teacher Jonathan Zeng was thrilled when he was offered a job at Cincinnati Hills, a K-8 non-denominational Christian school. According to the blog Towleroad, however, Zeng was decidedly less thrilled when school officials called him back for a second interview on the same day, asked if he was gay, and when he said yes, fired him on the spot.
Zeng has written a letter to the school’s board of trustees detailing his experience. In it, he said how the firing came at the end of several days of interviews and after he had taught a sample class to third graders at the school. He had returned home after being offered the job only to have his phone ring again.
“Shortly after the conclusion of this meeting, Mr. Thompson called and asked me to return to complete some necessary business they had forgotten,” he wrote, “He explained that there was an issue weighing on his mind because of my application answers regarding my belief in Christ’s unconditional love and that we as Christ’s followers are to show that love to all without judgment. These responses prompted him to ask if I was a homosexual. I was completely taken aback by this and asked why that was important. He explained that it was school policy not to employ teachers who are homosexual. When I asked why, he said that it was because I would work with children and because of the sanctity of marriage. I can’t begin to say how offensive and painful his comments were. I had no idea the school held such a viewpoint.”
Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate station, WCPO, contacted the school, who disputed Zeng’s account of the events, but then claimed that it is not their policy to discuss employment matters.
“CHCA keeps confidential all matters discussed within a candidate’s interview,” said the school in a statement, “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.”
Until the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) or similar legislation passes Congress, no federal protections exist for LGBT people in the workplace. In Ohio and 28 other states, it is still within the bounds of the law to fire someone solely on the basis of their sexual orientation. Gannett’s Cincinnati.com reports, however, that a local law, Cincinnati’s 2006 Human Rights ordinance, might apply.
According to lawyer Scott E. Knox, the 2006 law made it a criminal offense for employers to discriminate against LGBT people. The law provides exemptions for religious institutions, but may still apply to the private school, depending upon whether Cleveland Hills applied for its tax-exempt status as a school or a house of worship.
Zeng has said that his plans for the future are still uncertain. He is continuing to look for full-time work and performance opportunities.
Watch a video report on this story, which aired June 5, and is embedded via WCPO, below:
(image via WCPO screen capture)