Commentary

Teams should stop playing Valor Christian

In its attitude toward gay members of the community, the school practices bigotry

August 27, 2021 9:09 am

Valor Christian High School (Google Maps)

Valor Christian High School, based on statements from school officials and the former Valor coach they forced out for being gay, practices a form of rank bigotry.

The school, located in the south metro Denver community of Highlands Ranch, is unabashed in its religiosity, and administrators think they can flash faith as a form of ethical immunity from charges of prejudice. They are wrong. Hate is hate. When you discriminate against a person or group based on immutable characteristics, such as skin color, ethnicity or sexual orientation, you practice hate, no matter who put you up to it, even God.

In its attitude toward gay members of the school community, Valor behaves like a hate group. Yet too many people shield themselves from this aspect of the school to justify interacting with it in the normal course of scholastic activities. The athletic teams of other schools are happy to meet Valor as a peer on the field of play, but doing so abets bigotry, and, in the interest of promoting among young people the true value of brotherly love, they must reconsider their role in maintaining Valor’s undeserved good standing in Colorado’s educational community.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

As first reported by Denver7, Inoke Tonga, a volleyball coach, recently discussed on Facebook his life as a gay Christian man. The post alerted Valor officials to a conflict between Tonga’s identity and their religious strictures, and, according to Tonga, they told him he could either “denounce” being gay or resign.

“They did say it was a danger to be in front of the kids,” Tonga told 9News. “And that to protect the kids I couldn’t be in front of them.” This is the language of committed, unconcealed hate, revealed here to be a part of routine operations at the school.

Valor officials have claimed vaguely that Inoke has “misrepresented” parts of the episode, but they have not denied his central allegations and in fact have affirmed that Inoke’s Facebook post “suggested he may not support Valor’s beliefs pertaining to sexuality and marriage.”

His account was reinforced when, spurred by coverage of Inoke’s story, a second coach came forward to describe a similar experience. Lauren Benner, former head women’s lacrosse coach at Valor and the school’s 2019 coach of the year, said she also was pushed out for being gay. Benner said the school wanted her to “go through prayer” to guide her “towards a life that would be in alignment with their beliefs that homosexuality is wrong.” And it’s not just coaches who are speaking up about bigotry at Valor. Students are corroborating their assertion that the atmosphere at the school is overtly hostile to gay and trans people.

Athletes should refuse to engage with Valor's teams on the field and court.

It is unclear if Valor’s institutional discrimination is illegal. State law prohibits employers from discrimination based on sexual orientation, among other protected classes. But the law contains an exemption — call it a hate loophole — for religious institutions, such as a Christian school, where an employee is performing work “connected with the carrying on” of the institution’s activities. 

But whatever legal exposure the school could face, it should face social exposure. Valor is a member of the Colorado High School Activities Association, through which its sports teams compete with other schools in the state. The top football player in the state wears a Valor jersey. Bronco great Ed McCaffey is a recent former head coach at Valor, and his son, Dylan, led the team to the Class 5A state championship four years in a row. “Sports are a big deal at Valor,” the school says. But other teams that compete with Valor, such as Mountain Vista, Castle View, Highlands Ranch and ThunderRidge, are in a position to make Valor’s bigotry an even bigger deal. Their athletes should refuse to engage with Valor’s teams on the field and court. This could be a disruptive and painful response for students and coaches who simply want to participate in the worthy pursuit of high school athletics. But compared to the disruption and pain that hate inflicts on its victims, it’s not even in the same ballpark.

Half a century ago, Brigham Young University’s football team was the subject of boycotts because of discrimination against Black people by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which operates the school. Black church members were barred from the priesthood. At first, church president Spencer Kimball held firm to his bigoted beliefs. But after what he described as a revelation from God — a moment hilariously memorialized in a lyric from “The Book of Mormon” — he changed his mind. More recently, BYU has seen calls for football boycotts in response to the school’s anti-LGBTQ policies.

Valor has earned a similar rebuke. The alternative is to look away as the school promotes hate. Coloradans wouldn’t condone such bigotry in any other civic setting. There’s no reason to accept it when it’s perpetrated under the banner of faith.

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.