As we covered last year, Pastor Junia Joplin courageously came out as a transgender woman to her congregation at Lorne Park Baptist Church in Misissauga, Ontario.
But things went downhill after that.
For several months, Joplin was officially the church’s pastor but wasn’t allowed to preach. There was a vote on her future — something that never came up when church members believed she was a cis man — and the congregation was split almost entirely down the middle, but 52% of members said they didn’t want her leading their church. Joplin was suddenly unemployed.
And now, she’s suing the church claiming her firing was prompted by discrimination. In the U.S., courts usually leave churches to run themselves as they see fit, even if there’s discrimination involved, but in Canada, that isn’t necessarily a sure bet.
The lawsuit, which seeks nearly $200,000 in damages, alleges the church breached the Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender identity, gender expression, sex and other grounds.”
It argues that while the code allows religious organizations to give preference to those of a similar creed, that exemption only applies when creed is an occupational qualification, and it does not allow discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.
“LPBC did not perform a close and careful examination of the nature and essential duties of lead pastor or demonstrate an honest, good faith, and sincere belief that Rev. Joplin lacked a qualification that was reasonably necessary in relation to those duties,” the claim alleges.
It’s an interesting legal question: If the only reason the church says Joplin is unqualified is because she’s trans, and being cisgender isn’t some ground rule for belonging to or leading this church, should she have been fired for that reason? Or, put another way, is the church’s bigotry a vital part of the faith or something the congregation just randomly said mattered because of the pastor’s gender identity?
If she’s successful, the repercussions could be huge.
(Thanks to Rick for the link)