I Got Fired Because I Was Gay: How Steph’s Faith and Sexuality Collide

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Steph Lentz had been married to a man for four years when she fell in love with a woman in church.
Growing up in a conservative Anglican church, she believed heterosexual marriage was the only option for lifelong companionship.

“I was so involved in this complex self-deception that a lot of queer people go through. I think I believed that no matter the pain or the sacrifice, God would reward me in due time,” Steph said.

Instead, at the age of 27, her world was “turned upside down” when she fell in love with a woman and was forced to confront her budding sexuality and religious doubts.

After separating from her husband, Steph took time to recalibrate. She landed a job teaching at a non-denominational evangelical Christian school.

At the end of 2020, she came out as a lesbian to her employer. She was quickly fired. This left her unemployed and challenged her faith.
Steph said she came out to her employer because she “wanted to live a more transparent and authentic life.”

She also wanted to be the representative of some of her students whom she knew to be homosexual and felt “invisible and excluded”.

Religious colleges and schools fire teachers who come out as homosexual. And they also have the legal right to exclude trans and gay children from schools.

Dr. Kare Gleeson

Dr Kate Gleeson, associate professor of law at Macquarie University, says religious organizations have always been legally able to recruit appropriate people based on gender or faith, but this power is being used to discriminate.

“Originally, it was mainly used against women. Women who have had children out of wedlock, as we used to say, are women who are in common-law relationships and were unmarried,” Dr Glesson said.

“But of course now the big controversy is that religious colleges and schools are firing teachers who come out as gay. And they also have the legal right to exclude trans and gay children from schools.
in the last election showed that a clear majority, 67%, of voters disagreed that “religious schools should be able to refuse to employ staff because of their sexual orientation”. Only 15% agreed.

“There is absolutely no appetite among the majority of Australians for laws which are interpreted as extending the right of religious bodies to discriminate against LGBTI people,” Dr Gleeson said.

Fahimah speaking at a climate protest.

Fahimah speaking at a climate protest.

In thethe percentage of people identifying as Christian continued to decline, to 11.1 million (43.9% of respondents) from 12.2 million (52.1%) in 2016.

On the denominational level, Catholicism fell from 2.6% to 20% and Anglicanism fell from 3.5% to 9.8%.
There was also a generational divide: more than two-thirds (69.4%) of the interwar generation (people aged 75 and over) were affiliated with Christianity.
Almost half of millennials said they had no religion (46.5%) and 14.9% said they believed in “other religions”.

Fueled by migration, Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam have had growing popularity.

Fahimah - co-president of the Muslim Collective

Fahimah – co-president of the Muslim Collective

Fahimah grew up in Malaysia, where around two-thirds of the population are Muslim.

When she moved to Australia at 21 to study architecture, she was exposed to different cultural backgrounds and faiths.

We affirm people of all gender and sexual beliefs and identities.

Fahimah

“It really broadened my horizons,” Fahimah said.

Today, Fahimah is the co-chair of the Muslim Collective, an inclusive Islamic group that believes in practicing a more progressive interpretation of Islam.

Fahimah at a climate rally.

Fahimah at a climate rally.

“We affirm people of all gender and sexual beliefs and identities.”

Fahimah is also the community organizer and leading anti-coal activist in Australia’s religious response to climate change and says her religion has played a significant role in her political awakening.
“I remember the first political rally I went to was in a mosque.”

Fahimah says “everyone has the potential to contribute to society, to contribute to their faith communities, and to achieve spiritual fulfillment, and that should go beyond your genitals.”

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