Democrats in northern Virginia are coming after a pastor, accusing him of making "libelous and inflammatory" comments after he weighed in on one teacher's right to hold her own religious views on gender identity.
Bryon "Tanner" Cross, a P.E. teacher for Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS), told the school board last Tuesday that he opposed a new policy requiring all staff to use students' preferred pronouns and to allow transgender students to participate in sports activities based on how they identify, regardless of their biological sex.
CBN's Faithwire reported that Cross disagreed with the policy changes, believing they "will damage children" and "defile the holy image of God."
"I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences," Cross said during a meeting. "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."
Virginia county threatened with legal action over suspension of teacher who spoke about gender policies
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After sharing his views, Cross was placed on administrative leave from Leesburg Elementary School.
Cross's pastor, Cornerstone Chapel's Gary Hamrick, said on Sunday that he supports the recall of at least six Loudoun County School Board members who are "emotionally abusing our children by perpetuating the lie about gender confusion."
"The school board - some of them, not all - some of them are not doing their duty to protect, let alone educate our children," Hamrick told congregants. "And they are subjecting them to sexually explicit materials… and they are already talking about introducing racially divisive curriculum, they are emotionally abusing our children by perpetuating the lie about gender confusion when they affirm pronouns that are contrary to biology, reality, and the beautiful design of God. So, they need to be held accountable and it's time to step up."
Then, Loudoun County Democrats issued a statement on Monday calling for the pastor to retract his comments because they could incite violence.
"We call on Pastor Gary Hamrick to recant his allegations due to the libelous and inflammatory nature of the remarks," the statement reads. "Unfounded statements such as these not only hurt our community that he is meant to serve but have dangerous ramifications for the incitement of violence."
But Pastor Hamrick told CBN News that he was simply "telling the truth" and won't recant his comments.
"He (Cross) was just exercising his First Amendment rights and the school invited public input. For this, he gets placed on administrative leave."
Hamrick's comments weren't just about the teacher transgender case. They were also related to an effort by parents who are fighting to recall the Loudoun County School Board over raunchy reading material and critical race theory.
"We’re doing a disservice to our children when we lie to them about what gender they are," he told CBN News. "It defies biology, reality, and the design of God. If the school board would just stick with the basic elements of reading and writing, I wouldn’t have to speak up."
Pastor Hamrick stressed that he was also speaking for the "thousands of parents in Loudoun County who are outraged."
And the matter drew attention in the Virginia governor's race, with Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin speaking out in support of Cross.
"It's amazing to me that we see the Loudoun County School Board ignore and absolutely trample on Tanner Cross' constitutional rights to express not only his religious beliefs but also his right to free speech," Youngkin said during an interview on Fox News.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a faith-based legal advocacy organization penned a letter to the school system, urging for Cross to be reinstated.