Democrats have accused a pastor in northern Virginia of making "libelous and inflammatory" statements after intervening in a local teacher's effort to stand on his personal religious beliefs on gender identification.
Byron "Tanner" Cross, a P.E. instructor for Loudoun County Public Schools, publicly voiced his opposition to a new school policy that requires all school employees to use kids' chosen pronouns and to let transgender children to engage in sports according to their chosen pronouns. Consequently, Cross was immediately put on administrative leave.
During their morning service on Sunday, Cross's pastor Gary Hamrick of Cornerstone Chapel commented on the issue of "left-wing gender ideology" and how it has affected Loudoun County children, saying that the establishment of this ideology is considered emotional abuse, Daily Wire reported.
Hamrick also suggested that the church be more proactive and involve itself with the issues that concern Loudoun County children.
"The school board - some of them, not all - some of them are not doing their duty to protect, let alone educate our children," Hamrick said as quoted by CBN News. "And they are subjecting them to sexually explicit materials... and they are already talking about introducing racially divisive curriculum, they are emotionally abusing our children by perpetuating the lie about gender confusion when they affirm pronouns that are contrary to biology, reality, and the beautiful design of God. So, they need to be held accountable and it's time to step up."
Congregants were also given access to petitions asking for the recall of six "troublesome" school board members.
A statement issued by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee on Monday went after the pastor and demanded that he "recant" his "libelous and inflammatory" remarks.
"In his Sunday, May 30th sermon, Pastor Gary Hamrick took to the pulpit to accuse six Loudoun County School Board members of 'emotional child abuse,' opening his chapel's atrium to political campaigning, and invoking the name of God to incite political action," they said in the statement.
"We call on Pastor Gary Hamrick to recant his allegations due to the libelous and inflammatory nature of the remarks. Unfounded statements such as these not only hurt our community that he is meant to serve but have dangerous ramifications for the incitement of violence."
In response, Hamrick argued that he was merely stating the truth, and he has no intention of retracting his statements.
"We're doing a disservice to our children when we lie to them about what gender they are," the pastor said adding that he was also speaking on behalf of the "thousands of parents in Loudoun County who are outraged."
In fact, much of Hamrick's Sunday statements weren't only about Cross's case. They were connected to the ongoing efforts of parents who are trying to recall the Loudoun County School Board because of sexually explicit materials and the use of critical race theory in the classroom.
Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin said that the board "absolutely trample on Tanner Cross's constitutional rights to express not only his religious beliefs but also his right to free speech."
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a faith-based legal advocacy group, also sent a letter to the school board appealing for the reinstatement of Cross.