A Virginia school district is determined to punish a Christian physical education teacher who dared to speak out in opposition to the school's new transgender-affirming policies.
Last month, in response to a judge's order reinstating the teacher, Tanner Cross, Loudoun County Public Schools filed an appeal to that decision and vowed to take the case to the Virginia Supreme Court, WUSA-TV reported.
The controversy began in May, when Cross, a teacher at Leesburg Elementary, defiantly but respectfully declared during a school board meeting that he would not "lie" to his students and "defile" God by affirming that "a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa."
Cross's declaration came in response to two new policies set forth by the school district that required all staff to use a student's preferred gender pronouns and permitted transgender students to participate in activities based on their gender identity, rather than their biological sex.
In the speech, Cross made it clear that he loves all of his students but that he "serves God first," and to mislead students about their gender identity would be "against [his] religion."
"It's lying to a child, it's abuse to a child, and it's sinning against our God," he explained.
In response, the school district placed him on administrative leave for engaging in "disruptive" conduct. As part of the suspension, Cross was reportedly barred from school grounds and prohibited from attending any school district events.
But Cross, believing that his constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise of religion had been trampled, fought back with a legal challenge and won. In June, a Virginia judge reinstated Cross, calling the school district's decision to suspend him as "unnecessary and vindictive."
Only days later, however, the school district dug its heels in and filed an appeal, seeking to keep Cross suspended.
"Many students and parents at Leesburg Elementary have expressed fear, hurt, and disappointment about coming to school," the district said in a statement. "While LCPS respects the rights of public-school employees to free speech and free exercise of religion, those rights do not outweigh the rights of students to be educated in a supportive and nurturing environment."
The story, which has now become a back-and-forth saga, has garnered national attention. But the primary toll is laid on the local community.
Fox News reported that during a fiery June 22 board meeting, "numerous residents spoke out in defense of Cross during the public comment portion and urged district officials to stop fighting him in court – calling it a waste of taxpayer money and arguing that their effort is doomed to fail."
Cross is being represented by the religious liberty law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom, in the case.
Tanner Cross and Tyson Langhofer on Fox News' 'America Reports' www.youtube.com