Christian teacher Nelli Parisenkova is fighting for her First Amendment rights after her employer fired her for refusing to promote a message she disagreed with.
Parisenkova has been working with children ages five and younger for four years at Bright Horizons Children’s Center in Studio City, California.
Last week, she filed a lawsuit against the child care center, accusing the school of disrespecting her religious beliefs. One day, Parisenkova was reading books to the children to keep them preoccupied, and noted that five of the twelve books available promoted same-sex marriage and parenting. She then asked the lead teacher if the five LGBT-themed books could be put away for the rest of the day.
The lead teacher removed the books and notified the school’s director, Katy Callas, of Parisenkova’s request. Callas called the teacher into her office and “became increasingly angry” as she scolded Parisenkova for refusing to read the inappropriate material to the children. Callas stated, “If you cannot celebrate with us, then Bright Horizons is not a place for you,” and placed the teacher on administrative leave.
The next week, Parisenkova asked for a religious accommodation that excused her from reading the LGBT-themed books, but she was denied the accommodation. Instead, the school required the teacher to undergo non-discrimination, harassment, and diversity “retraining.”
Parisenkova claimed that when she took the position, she knew that the school stocked LGBT books, but her supervisor had initially granted her an informal accommodation for her religious beliefs. She also said that she never opposed the other teachers reading those books to the children. She only refused to personally celebrate LGBT relationships and marriage by reading the books aloud herself.
Now, Parisenkova is suing Bright Horizons Children’s Center “for disparate treatment, failure to accommodate, wrongful termination, harassment, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, retaliation, and constructive discharge,” according to Blaze Media.
Employees should not be forced to promote a message or celebrate an ideology that violates their deeply held beliefs. Further, themes pertaining to sexuality should be kept out of classrooms with young children. LGBT-themed books seek to indoctrinate rather than educate, and Parisenkova was only trying to protect young children from inappropriate material. The teacher had every right to remove those books from her students’ reach.
There’s a growing trend of Christians being forced to promote messages they don’t agree with or being punished for not doing so. Two Christian business owners, for example, are currently fighting for their religious liberty in court. Cake shop owner Jack Phillips and graphic designer Lorie Smith are under fire for refusing to offer services for events or celebrations that don’t align with their religious beliefs. Much like Parisenkova, they have every right to refuse to send a message they don’t agree with.
Hopefully, Parisenkova’s lawsuit and other upcoming court cases will finally settle this issue. The Constitution protects freedom of speech and the freedom not to speak, as well as religious liberty. The LGBT agenda does not trump those rights.