Tanner Cross may teach P.E., but it might be grammar that costs him his job! That's the unbelievable situation playing out in Loudoun County, Va., where an elementary gym teacher dared to put himself on the wrong side of the gender wars during the public comment session of the local school board.
"I love my students," he said firmly, "but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences. 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....It's against my religion, it's lying to a child, it's abuse to a child, and it's sinning against our God."
Tanner didn't set out to become the newest face in the battle over woke education. But then, he probably never dreamed that using a child's pronoun would cost him his teaching career either.
"It is not my intent to hurt anyone," he made clear, "but there are certain truths that we all must face when ready."
But obviously, Loudoun County's HR department isn't ready to face those truths -- and they're willing to destroy a beloved teacher's livelihood to prove it. Less than 12 hours after Cross had his say during the public comments, he was hauled into a meeting where he was informed he'd been put on administrative leave pending an investigation. Why?
"That's a great question," Tanner responded on "Washington Watch" Tuesday. "We would like to hear an answer for that too." According to the letter he got from district officials, there was no explanation for the decision -- only a warning that an investigation had been launched and Tanner was banned from school property. Cross's Alliance Defending Freedom attorney, Tyson Langhofer, wasn't surprised the district didn't explain the suspension, because, as far as he's concerned, there's no legitimate rationale -- legal or otherwise -- to justify it.
"Teachers don't shed their constitutional rights when they step on to a schoolhouse property," Langhofer argued. "And in this case, he wasn't even on the school's property. He went to a public meeting where the school board invited the public to come comment on proposed policies."
Loudoun County, ADF insisted, can't retaliate against Tanner just because he doesn't share their views. In a counter-letter to the district, demanding Cross's reinstatement, Langhofer warned that the administration was walking on dangerous ground by sending the message that employees have to "toe the line or face the consequences." Unfortunately, he explained, this is a new pattern that we're seeing in school boards across the country.
A growing number of woke districts are trying to send a message to teachers "that if you speak out, you're going to be punished. And that's wrong," Langhofer insisted, "because there [are] a lot of teachers that have spoken at board meetings in the past in favor of these policies, and they haven't been punished. People on both sides of the aisle should be able to speak their mind -- and especially teachers, when we're talking about policies that are going to affect teachers' rights and also affect how students are treated in the classroom."
As tough as the last week has been, there's been an outpouring of support for the Crosses from the local community. Tanner and his family had just started going to Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, where our good friend Pastor Gary Hamrick has been preaching with cultural clarity for years. His unapologetic stand, Tanner says, was one of the main reasons he had the courage to stand up and speak out. When I talked to Pastor Gary, who spent a good chunk of his Sunday sermon on Tanner's story and encouraging the community to "take back our schools," he said this is what living out your faith is all about. "It's applying what we know to be true from God's word to everyday life... [W]e have to be ready to be salt and light" -- no matter what the opposition looks like.
And as a church, Hamrick went on, we have to be ready to stand with them. Too many pastors are surrendering biblical truth in the public square. And if they would have the Daniel-like boldness of people like Tanner, our culture would look a whole lot different. But too many of us, he knows, are motivated by the flesh. We're afraid of being labeled, losing money, losing friends, losing popularity.
"But what I've found," Pastor Gary explained, "is that the more that I just lovingly tell the truth and share God's word, people are hungry for that. And it's actually had the opposite effect. People are coming because they want to know somebody who will tell [them] the truth in the midst of a very relative world."
So on Sunday, when he brought the Crosses up front and the church prayed over them, it was an important reminder to everyone that living boldly and courageously is what God has called us to do.
"We have to rise up in this day and declare what is right," Pastor Gary urged. "The American church has been asleep for too long, and it's time to reclaim the land for the glory of God. Do it in a loving but truthful way, but lift up your voices. Because otherwise, how will the world hear?"
Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council.
Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared on the Family Research Council.