Gay Florida Teacher, Single Dad Fired by Christian School

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday October 21, 2020

Steven Arauz
Steven Arauz  (Source:Steven Arauz/Instagram)

Steven Arauz, a teacher at a Seventh Day Adventist school in Florida, was fired when a publication about gay parenting identified him as gay, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Arauz is well known as an advocate for the fostering and adoption of children by "nontraditional" parents, such as a single man like himself, having been profiled by several newspapers, including The New York Times. He fostered, and eventually adopted, his son because he was moved to do so from reading the Bible.

But what wasn't as widely known was that he wasn't just single; he was gay. As soon as that fact became public thanks to an interview with online publication Gay with Kids, he was tossed from his job.

The publication's executive editor, David Dodge, told the Sentinel that is was "incredibly upsetting that Steven's employer used an article on our site, which we wrote to celebrate his selfless contributions to his community as a foster dad, as evidence in their decision to terminate his employment."

"The irony is that, as Christians, we like to say, 'Everyone belongs. Come as you are and follow Jesus,'" Arauz told the Sentinel.

Arauz said that others he worked with at the school knew he was gay. But the superintendent of schools for the Florida Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, Frank Runnels, cited the interview - which disclosed that Arauz is gay and was dating another man - as the reason for his termination, telling him in an email, "You are aware that this conduct, if true, does not comport with the Seventh-Day Adventist church's standards," the Sentinel reported.

Arauz is a lifelong Seventh Day Adventist who graduated from, and then taught for years at, schools run by the faith's schools. He says that while the school system is indeed private, it receives public money, and he questions their right to fire him for his sexual orientation.

The Sentinel detailed how much money the school system takes in from taxpayers, reporting: "Forest Lake relied on state scholarships for at least 40% of its students last year, and those scholarships brought it nearly $1.7 million, according to the Florida Department of Education and Step Up For Students, which administers many of the state scholarships."

Florida state law includes no protections for LGBTQ workers or students, the Sentinel reported, noting that Arauz was fired just after the Supreme Court found that federal law protects LGBTQ employees.

Despite that ruling, church-run schools and other services "are immune from anti-discrimination suits brought by employees that can be considered ministers," according to Professor Caroline Mala Corbin of the University of Miami's School of Law, the Sentinel reported.

Runnels cited this argument in an email to the Sentinel, contending that Arauz "compromised his ability to minister to his students."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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