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Lifeguard Sues L.A. County for Making him Raise a Progress Pride Flag

After the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted last March to require all county facilities to fly the “Progress Pride Flag,” lifeguard captain Jeffrey Little found himself with a problem. As an evangelical Christian, he morally disagrees with what the flag represents and took issue with being personally responsible for raising any of the flags. Yet he also felt a strong loyalty to his position, having worked for the county for over 20 years. Thus, he submitted a request for religious accommodation that would ensure he was not responsible for raising any Pride flags, or being responsible to oversee his subordinates raise the flag. His superiors agreed.

Fast forward to June 21, 2023, and Jeffery showed up to work at Dockweiler Beach, an area which was supposed to be excluded from the mandate to fly Pride flags during June. He quickly noticed, however, that three Progress Pride flags were raised in honor of Pride Month. The Progress Pride flags are different from the rainbow pride flag because they include the following “identities”: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Asexual, Aromantic, Queer, Two-Spirit, Non-Binary, Intersex, and BIPOC.

Jeffrey was shocked and disheartened to find that his agreed-upon request for religious accommodation had been blatantly ignored by higher-ups, and the flags were placed in his work zone. He saw the incident as a retaliatory action for requesting a religious exemption. He took down all three and submitted a complaint with the district the following day, June 22nd.

“I was confused [as] to why they were flying as I was under the impression that I would not have to deal with working in these conditions,” Jeffrey wrote in the complaint.

The following day, the chief of the lifeguard division hand-delivered a direct order for Jeffrey to personally make sure the Pride flag was flying at Dockweiler Beach throughout the rest of June. 

According to his legal complaint, the lifeguard chief was responsible for breaching Jeffrey’s right to employment-related privacy, and disclosed to unauthorized recipients that Jeffrey had filed a request for a religious accommodation regarding the Pride flag. The complaint explains that that breach led to the following two incidents:

  • “On June 23, 2023, Captain Little was suspended from his role on the background investigation unit, which conducts investigations of emergency incidents, resulting in a significant loss of overtime, income, and prestige.”

  • “On June 28, 2023, Captain Little received via the U.S. Mail a death threat against him and his children. The death threat was printed by hand in letters that alternate in color and said: ‘Jeff F*** you and your Jesus. Your hate won’t be tolerated. We know where you live and work. You better pay respect to our pride flag or we will f*** you up. We know about your cute little girls and aren’t afraid to rape the s*** out of them if you don’t honor us. You are a fascist pig and deserve to die.’”

A year later, in May, as Pride month inevitably approached, Jeffery once again requested religious accommodation so he would not be responsible for raising any Pride flags. In turn, the country warned him that he would be subject “to discipline and eventual termination for failure to raise the Progress Pride flag.”

Jeffery filed suit against the fire department, which runs the lifeguard unit, and three lifeguard officials for discrimination and violation of his religious freedom. He is represented by the Thomas More Society.

The lawsuit explains that he told his superiors that he “adheres to traditional Christian beliefs regarding the moral illicitness of same-sex activity, the immutability of sex regardless of gender identity, and the view that all people are children of God regardless of their skin color.”

“While Captain Little understands that the government can speak its own messages, and thus may promote Pride Month, he believes that he cannot personally do so by raising the Progress Pride Flag,” the legal complaint reads. “Doing so would be to personally participate in, espouse, and promote messages contrary to his sincerely held religious beliefs, similar to how many courts have recognized that Jehovah’s Witnesses may not salute or pledge allegiance to the flag of any nation or state.”

“No one should be forced to promote political or social causes that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs,” said Greg Burt, Vice President of California Family Council. “Even though our Constitution guarantees every American that right, this freedom will be lost if people like Mr. Little don’t stand up and refuse to follow directives they know to be wrong. We commend Mr. Little for his courage and encourage others to follow in his footsteps.”

“Every person deserves to know that their religious beliefs will be respected in their workplace and reasonable adjustments will be made to ensure they are not required to break their moral codes for a job,” Burt continued.  “It is shameful that L.A. County disrespected Jeffery’s simple request over a controversial, ideological flag.”


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