". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Christian Teachers Reinstated as Lawsuit over Transgender Policy Continues

January 17, 2024

The pandemonium of gender identity politics has yet to slow down with the new year. Only last week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) said that the state’s constitution would allow schools to hide student’s preferred names or pronouns from parents. As part of his statement, Bonta warned California districts against any policy that required a teacher to notify a parent of a student’s gender identity, as it would “violate state law.”

But long before Bonta’s proclamation, teachers in California already felt the heat from the progressive fire. Two Christian teachers, Lori Ann West and Elizabeth Mirabelli, were placed on administrative leave in May of 2023 for their opposition to Rincon Middle School’s transgender policies. The teachers were represented by the Thomas More Society in a lawsuit against district administrators and the California Board of Education.

According to Paul Jonna, special counsel representing the teachers, West and Mirabelli obtained “religious accommodation” to not be forced to say a student’s preferred pronouns and name, but that accommodation did not apply when it came to notifying the parents of what was happening with their children.

“It put me in a situation which takes us to the issue of faith,” Mirabelli said. “I have some core beliefs that are based on the Judeo-Christian tradition. I’m really clear about certain things that are right and wrong, and one of those things would be withholding material information about the welfare of a child from their parents. I was unwilling to do that.” When she approached leadership, she was informed she would be disciplined and eventually fired if she did not comply with the transgender policy.

Both teachers were threatened with charges of discrimination and harassment if they did not accept and follow the policy because the school’s training on the policy stated the teachers were not allowed to reveal “a student’s transgender status or gender diverse status to individuals who do not have a legitimate need for the information.”

Jonna’s original request was that the federal judge would hold the district in contempt, which was denied. However, last week, the judge allowed the teachers to be reinstated in the classroom while the case continues. And while this is a victory for West and Mirabelli, it didn’t come easy.

“The investigation was supposed to be concluded in 30 days. It ended up taking over five months after the injunction [was] issued,” Jonna said. He explained how the investigation was very stop and go, and it was hard to tell when it would officially be over.

In an interview with Fox News, West stated some of the school’s pushback was seemingly because they were trying “to take over parental” duties. She said the policy functioned as if they wanted “to be the parent,” and added that, as a mother, she “would not want that for” her children. She also noted how she believes her biblical worldview played a role in the school’s behavior. “I believe in the teachings of the Bible,” she added. “[Mirabelli and I] follow the laws in the Bible, and that’s a wonderful thing. And it seems like, at my school, we have been put down for that. They want to stifle our voices.”

Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, commented to The Washington Stand, “Being required to use a student’s preferred gender pronouns and then lie to parents about their children’s gender presentation at school poses a serious challenge to a Christian teacher’s freedom of conscience.”

She continued, “The First Amendment protects American’s freedom to believe and to speak and act in a way that is consistent with those beliefs.” Ultimately, schools that force transgender policies that “require religious teachers to violate their conscience” hurt both children and teachers, she added. “This is also likely to deter Christians and those of other faiths from becoming teachers. Why would they want to enter a work environment which they know will out them in positions to potentially violate their faith?”

Del Turco concluded, “It’s good to see that Lori Ann West and Elizabeth Mirabelli are challenging their school and the state of California’s policies that infringe upon their faith. It’s not easy to be the first to stand up and challenge these kinds of violations of conscience in the court system. It takes courage, but courage is always required to make a difference.”

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.