A short video about lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual diversity may bring an abrupt end to a federal employee’s 14-year career with the Social Security Administration. David Hall, who works in information technology at the agency’s office in Champaign, Ill., refused to watch the 17-minute video on several occasions.
Hall told the News-Gazette that the mandate to watch the video first came in April, when the national office sent out an email memo regarding LGBT diversity and inclusivity training. (The Washington Post contacted the Social Security Administration to confirm this initiative early Wednesday, but the agency was unable to immediately respond.) The Chicago-area Social Security office issued a statement to Illinois’ WCIA to explain the training without commenting on the specifics of this case.
“In support of an inclusive work environment, as well as exemplary customer service, the Social Security Administration recently announced a diversity and inclusion training on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community to our employees,” the statement read. “The training includes a brief session on tips for increasing cultural awareness in a diverse and inclusive environment.”
For Hall, that premise was too sinful. The 42-year-old, who identifies as Christian, said he does not believe God would have wanted him to watch the video. Signing a statement he had watched such a video, moreover, was equal to endorsing “an abomination,” he told WCIA. “I’m not going to certify sin.”
On two occasions in June, Hall’s boss told him to watch the video. When Hall declined, he was reprimanded. He later received a two-day suspension, in August, without pay.
The employee does not have a public-facing job, and said he considers himself neither a “martyr or a bigot.” He told WCIA during an interview that the video was propaganda, and cited his right under the Constitution to religious freedom in support of his refusal. He could not be “sort of Christian,” he said, any more than you could be “sort of pregnant.” Hall added he has LGBT friends.
Hall is willing to lose his job — he admits it is likely, in fact — and he sees his stance as a call to other Christians. “This is something I want to fight and expose, to give other Christians the courage of their convictions,” he said told the News-Gazette. He said several Christian co-workers are “scared” and “their fears are being realized through me.”
Hall hired an attorney, Jason Craddock, who has also represented the Christian man who runs the Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton, Ill. Owner Jim Walder refused to host a same-sex ceremony on the venue’s grounds in 2011; the bed-and-breakfast was ordered to pay an $80,000 settlement in March.