Bellingham teen let go as camp counselor by Christian organization because he is gay

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Jace Taylor says he was struggling with being gay. Then last year, the Bellingham teenager finally came out with the support of his family. But now, he says another kind of family turned their backs on him because of his sexuality.

“I was terminated based on my sexual orientation which was found out by social media,” Taylor said.

The 18-year-old says he was terminated on Tuesday after being hired last month by THE FIRS to be a Fir Creek camp counselor. He says the position would have started this weekend.

“At first I wanted to bawl my eyes out because all of my life I’ve wanted to work as a Fir Creek camp counselor and make an impact in their lives like they did when I was younger,” Taylor said.

The teenager says the Christian non-profit organization had a big impact on his life growing up.

“They made me feel loved, they made me feel accepted especially by God and Christ,” Taylor said.

Now he says he feels betrayed by the people who knew him well, including the manager who let him go on Tuesday.

“He had a really hard time saying it, I could tell he was struggling with it. He’s a really good family friend with us, he basically watched me grow up to this point,” Taylor said.

The non-denominational Christian organization confirmed to Q13 News on Wednesday that it was Taylor’s sexuality that ended his employment opportunity. Executive Director Tom Beaumont released a statement, saying in part, "When it became evident in the application process that did not personally align with our statements of faith (in particular, one regarding sexuality) we determined we could not use him in this role."

For Taylor, the sadness has now turned into anger.

“I am still in shock, this whole thing seems unreal. This can happen, I hear stories about it all over the world; never thought it could happen to me,” Taylor said.

Under state law, an employer cannot discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation. But non-profit religious organizations are technically exempt from that law, according to legal experts.

And legal experts also say similar cases have led to legal fights across the country.

Here is the full statement from Tom Beaumont: 

“We are a faith-based organization whose mission is not only to love kids but to introduce them to a God who loves them as well. A God that we feel reveals Himself primarily in the Bible. This, then, is what we are all about.  We seek to accomplish this mission through our programs within the context of approved Statements of Faith which are approved by our Board of Directors and in our organizational by-laws. They represent what we believe and who we are.

In order for us to carry our mission out we hire young leaders each summer and we call them summer staff. Some of them are counselors. It is critical that we hire people who are committed to our mission and to these statements of faith. These folks are extremely important to us, we care deeply for them and they are at the point of what we do.

Just recently we extended an invitation for a young man well known and loved at The Firs to serve as a counselor of children at Fircreek Day Camp. (He had previously been employed by us in a non-leadership role.) When it became evident in the application process that he did not personally align with our statements of faith (in particular, one regarding sexuality) we determined we could not use him in this role.

Our quandary was this. In order to be consistent to our beliefs and our mission we felt compelled to pass on someone we truly liked in filling this counselor role. I sincerely wish this was otherwise. I know this may be confusing and contrary to other's beliefs. The leadership of The Firs will continue to seek the appropriate means to carry out our mission in the context of a changing world.”