Transgender Pastor Sues Lutheran Denomination Over Allegations of Discrimination

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The first openly transgender bishop of the nation's largest Christian denomination has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was unjustly forced from his position after being the victim of relentless harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

Rev. Megan Rohrer was appointed bishop of Sierra Pacific Synod on May 8, 2021. His appointment made national headlines as he was the first-ever transgender bishop to represent the Evangelical Lutheran Church, one of the nation's largest Christian denominations. Prior to being a bishop, Rev. Rohrer worked as a chaplain for the San Francisco Police Department. In that role, he was also the first ever Chaplin there from the LGBT community.

Despite his milestone appointments, Rohrer shares that he was pushed out of his role as bishop and was made to be a scapegoat that was “publicly shamed as a racist.” In June, Rohrer left his position as bishop amid allegations that he was a racist. The allegations stemmed from an incident in which Rohrer fired the pastor of a predominantly Latino immigration congregation in Stockton, California, on the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On that day, the community had extensive festivities and celebrations planned. Shortly following the backlash after firing the pastor, Rohrer issued a letter to the Synod explaining his resignation. In the letter, he detailed that he was subjected to constant bullying and harassment amid misinformation involving the decision to fire the Stockton pastor.

After months of staying silent, Rohrer filed his discrimination lawsuit last Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. As part of his lawsuit, he accuses the denomination of discriminatory behavior including intentionally misgendering him and creating a “hostile work environment.”

Rohrer adds, “I love being a Lutheran because we believe that God loves and welcomes all people. While Bishop, the Church resisted my efforts to make the Church more inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalized groups and forced me out of my role. My hope is that this lawsuit accelerates the changes that LGBTQIA+ folks, and all historically underrepresented groups, need to be safe and equal in our Church.”

Additionally, Rohrer claims that the denomination retaliated against him after he vocalized labor violations of California's wage and labor laws. Among the labor violation claims was that the church categorized employees as independent contractors to keep from having to pay them a salary.

His lawsuit goes on to claim that because of the backlash he endured following his resignation and during his time as a bishop, he has since been subjected to “nearly daily hate mail” including death threats. As such Rohrer was unable to find work as a bishop in another synod or as a pastor in any other facilities of the denomination.

Rohrer brings forward his lawsuit under allegations that he was ridiculed and harassed on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Additionally, Rohrer is seeking monetary damages for the harassment and for blowing the whistle on the alleged labor law violations.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate from James Madison University, where she studied English and Education. Residing in Central Virginia with her husband and two young daughters, she balances her workaholic tendencies with a passion for travel, exploring the world with her family.
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