Pastor Sues San Diego Mayor over Alleged Anti-Christian Discrimination
A San Diego pastor is filing a lawsuit against the city’s mayor, alleging discrimination against his biblical views on gender and sexuality.
Dennis Hodges of the Church of Yeshua Ha Mashiach in Lemon Grove, California, has been a member of San Diego's Citizens Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations since 2017. After he abstained from a vote condemning “transphobia,” citing his Christian faith, Hodges was pressured to resign from his position on the San Diego County Human Relations Commission by some of his fellow commissioners. Eventually, according to the lawsuit, those commissioners “influenced” San Diego mayor Todd Gloria to veto Hodges’s reappointment to the city board. Hodges filed the lawsuit earlier this month.
The lawsuit states, “This is an action for the unlawful discrimination and retaliation against Mr. Dennis Hodges, a devoted Christian pastor and public servant.” The suit further declares that “the Mayor of the City of San Diego, under the influence of several of Mr. Hodges’ fellow commissioners, retaliated and discriminated against Mr. Hodges for adhering to his religious beliefs regarding gender identity and transgenderism.”
In November 2021, the county commission voted on “a letter from the City of San Diego Human Relations Commissioner Tootie Thomas Regarding Ending Discrimination and Transphobia by Amplifying the Visibility and Voices of the Transgender Community.” The proposal would have involved drafting and distributing a letter on behalf of the commission, clarifying the city and county’s commitment to “ending transphobia.” Hodges abstained from voting, telling his fellow commissioners, “I love all people. I love transgenders as well. But to me, it’s an abomination to the eyes of God, so I don’t agree with it.”
The lawsuit clarifies that Hodges abstained “because the agenda item conflicted with his Christian beliefs on creation, God’s design for humankind, and human sexuality.” It further claims that fellow commissioners launched “a crusade to cancel a man for holding traditional, religious beliefs regarding the biological nature of a man and woman,” referring to a June 2022 effort to vote Hodges off of the county commission. The effort failed, as most of his fellow commissioners voted for Hodges to retain his position.
Gloria vetoed Hodges’s reappointment to the city board in August of this year, saying that because Hodges “has made repeated concerning public comments about LGBTQ people — specifically, the transgender community,” Gloria could not “support [Mr. Hodge’s] reappointment to a Board tasked with promoting a positive relationship between the Police Department and the community it serves.” The lawsuit explains, “The Mayor based his decision to exercise his veto authority against Mr. Hodges solely based on his beliefs on human creation and transgenderism — issues that are unrelated to his role on the Advisory Board.”
In a statement released through his lawyers, Advocates for Faith and Freedom, Hodges stated, “I am standing up for religious people nationwide who have been discriminated against solely because of their faith. What happened to me at the hands of our government should never happen to anyone else.” Hodges is seeking unspecified damages and reinstatement to the board.
In comments to The Washington Stand, Julianne Fleischer, one of the attorneys representing Hodges, declared, “No government authority should be able to wield their authority to attack other public servants for holding traditional, biblical values. The mayor exercised his veto authority against Pastor Hodges not because he lacked any qualifications to serve on the Advisory Board, but because Pastor Hodges stood by his religious convictions.”
She added, “This lawsuit is important for public servants everywhere and we hope it sends a clear message to government officials that their authority does not trump the First Amendment.” Hodges is seeking unspecified damages and reinstatement to the board.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.