A gay man says he was forced to quit his job at a Christian school in Colorado after administrators told him to denounce his sexuality or leave.
Inoke Tonga claims that administrators at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch told him that he was a “risk” to students and wouldn’t be allowed to continue teaching without publicly stating that he was having a “spiritual battle” and wasn’t gay.
Tonga had joined Valor as the boys’ volleyball coach and had been offered the opportunity to teach the girls’ volleyball team, CNN reports.
But administrators reportedly became aware of a Facebook post Tonga had made saying he disagreed with the school’s beliefs on sexuality and marriage. That led Valor’s campus pastor and athletic director to call him in for a talk.
Tonga told 9 News that he was offered a choice: “Be gay or admit that I wasn’t gay and that I was just having what they call a spiritual battle.”
He alleges that administrators said he was “a danger to be in front of the kids. And that to protect the kids I couldn’t be in front of them.”
In order to stay in his post, he had to “denounce being a gay man, cut off any goals I had of marrying the love of my life, and delete the post and also accept their help of becoming a child of God,” Tonga claimed.
In a post on Facebook, Tonga also accused administrators of telling him that the students’ parents “pay too much money to have their kids be coached and taught by someone like you who identifies as a gay man.”
They also questioned his sexuality, he said, telling him that he just needed “some direction to reach the goal of becoming a child of God.”
Speaking to CNN, Tonga said he had felt “every emotion on the spectrum,” but had received an outpouring of love after sharing his story.
“I know I can be a gay man and a child of God,” he said.
In a statement provided to the Denver Post, Valor said it “embraces, loves and respects all students, families and other participants in our community, regardless of whether or not they agree with Valor’s beliefs.”
“Although Coach Inoke has misrepresented many aspects of this matter, Valor appreciates the contributions he has made to the student athletes in our volleyball program, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” the statement read.
Students at Valor responded to Tonga’s resignation by staging a walking on Tuesday, Aug. 24, to “show support for all LGBT+ students and show the administration that discrimination and bigotry will not be tolerated.”
Robert Galop, a parent of two students at Valor who participated in the walkout, told CNN that Tonga was “very well-respected and loved as a coach” at the school.
“What they’ve done to this coach, and especially seeing the quotes that have come out from the administration, is gut-wrenching,” he said.
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