A high school volleyball coach in Colorado says he left his job at a local Christian high school because he was told he couldn’t be gay and work with children.
Inoke Tonga, who was planning to coach volleyball at Valor Christian for a second season, says he had a conversation with the school’s pastor and athletic director after a Facebook post that suggested he may not prescribe to the school’s atavistic beliefs around sexual orientation.
Tonga says the school’s administration gave him two choices: continue to work there, or identify as gay. He chose the latter.
“Be gay or admit that I wasn’t gay and that I was just having what they call a spiritual battle,” Tonga told 9 News in Denver. “They did say it was a danger to be in front of the kids, and that to protect the kids I couldn’t be in front of them.”
Valor Christian was founded in 2006 with a mission to “prepare tomorrow’s leaders to transform the world for Christ,” according to the school’s website.
In a statement issued to 9 News, Valor said Tonga “has misrepresented many aspects of this matter, but it appreciates the contributions he has made to student-athletes.” It added that the school “embraces, loves and respects all students, families and community members, regardless of whether or not they agree with Valor’s beliefs.”
Emails and phone calls to athletic director Brian Bonn and Gary Fisher, the head of the school, weren’t immediately returned.
Micah Porter, a Colorado school administrator and Education Coordinator for the Sports Equality Foundation, told Outsports that Valor Christian is violating the mission of the Colorado High School Activities Association.
“In a State where the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) champions equity and inclusion, this messaging to Coach Tonga from Valor Christian is deplorable,” Porter said. “Valor Christian participates as a member school of CHSAA, and the school should be held accountable for abandoning CHSAA’s principles of equity. Even more concerning is the message that this sends to youth and teens all around the State of Colorado.
“For a school of this stature to tell a coach to hide and denounce their sexuality, does deep damage to young people who need institutions and role models in the LGBTQ+ sports community. We will continue to voice opposition to Valor’s discrimination and stand in solidarity with Coach Tonga.”
Tonga’s descriptions of the conversations he had with the school are downright humiliating. He says he was literally told being an out gay man wasn’t an option at Valor.
“I had to denounce being a gay man, cut off any goals I had of marrying the love of my life, and delete the post and also accept their help of becoming a child of God,” Tonga said.
Disgraceful. Tonga says he was forced to choose between his paycheck and being himself. That’s something nobody should have to face.