Florida Teacher: Taxpayer-Funded Christian School Fired Me for Being Gay

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday October 22, 2019

Florida dramatic arts teacher Monica Toro-Lisciandro says that the taxpayer-funded private Christian school where she taught a class fired her after school officials received a tip from an unknown caller that she is a lesbian.

The informer also claimed that Toro-Lisciandro is involved with another woman, has hosted an LGBTQ group, at an actors' study that she runs, and was at a Pride event.

Summoned to a meeting with the assistant principal of Covenant Christian School shortly before one of her classes was set to begin, Toro-Lisciandro refused to hide away under a veil of lies or secrecy, reported local news source Florida Today.

"Well, it's true," the article quoted her as saying.

Florida Today also quoted from an email that the school's head, Lorne Wenzel, sent out to parents of Toro-Lisciandro's students:

"I am sorry to say that for personal reasons, Mrs. Lisciandro is not able to continue teaching our musical theater class."

The article also quoted text from the school's website, which claims that Covenant Christian School "exists to glorify God by cultivating wise servant leaders through nurturing Christ-like character, promoting individual academic excellence, and developing a Biblical worldview in its students."

Toro-Lisciandro said that this wasn't all the school had to say, though. The New Civil Rights Movement reports that the school told her students that she was let go from her position because of her "morals."

Toro-Lisciandro had chosen to speak out about the situation. She told the media that, "It's been a very difficult situation, because my life has been dedicated to children and making them feel seen and heard and loved, no matter who they are."

Toro-Lisciandro went on to add: "And so to think that something like this could happen to them makes me feel really upset and angry because they deserve better. So I can't be quiet about it."

Newsweek noted that Florida has no law against job discrimination targeting LGBTQ workers, and the federal government under President Trump has taken the stance that sexual minorities can be fired for not being heterosexual.

Toro-Lisciandro's alleged firing is only part of a larger and ongoing pattern of LGBTQ educators and school staff being fired from their positions based not on their job performance, but rather on their sexual orientation or relationship status. As Newsweek noted, "Stephen Lovegrove was fired from his position as a resident advisor at Charleston Southern University, where he was studying to be a pastor, after posting on social media about being a gay Christian..."

Newsweek also recalled the case of an Indiana educator "who claimed he was fired from his job as a direct result of his being in a same-sex marriage." That case, Newsweek recalled, drew the attention of the Department of Justice, which, under Trump, has adopted the stance that religious schools should be free, under the First Amendment's protections of religious expression, to fire staff who do not conform to the schools' requirements.

But the private school benefits from public money, and to some that represents another problem. Media sources took note of the fact that Covenant Christian School receives taxpayer money through the state's voucher program.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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