The director of the 4-H rural youth organization in Iowa was fired following conservative backlash over his pro-LGBT agenda that was pushing the group to enforce “inclusion” policies to set up transgender restrooms, housing and gender pronoun usage.
4-H Youth Development Director John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas – the group’s first Latino statewide youth leader in its 115-year history – was terminated just months after he introduced his proposal of a controversial LGBTQ inclusion policy.
Booted after backlash
While LGBT activists praised the radical changes to give special privileges and accommodations to LGBT youth, conservative groups condemned the policy, and the proposal was soon withdrawn after it incited hundreds of comments to be submitted to Iowa 4-H over the past few months.
Iowa State University (ISU) Vice President of Extension and Outreach John Lawrence – who served as Chaisson-Cardenas’ boss at 4-H – subsequently made the decision to change the group’s leadership.
“Your letter of intent states that your position serves at the pleasure of the administration,” Lawrence wrote in Chaisson-Cardenas’ termination letter, which was obtained by the Des Moines Register. “At this time, I have decided to exercise that provision and terminate your employment … effective immediately.”
ISU – which supports the 4-H group – informed the local paper why Chaisson-Cardenas was terminated.
“[Chaisson-Cardenas was fired for a] documented inability to foster a positive and collaborative work environment [and] a tendency to focus on individual tactical projects while neglecting the overall strategic direction of the Iowa 4-H program," the university informed the Register.
Even after being fired, Chaisson-Cardenas continued to champion his pro-LGBTQ inclusion politics.
"Through my life and through my career, I have always tried to foster inclusive environments that welcome diversity for all youth and all people," Chaisson-Cardenas proclaimed, according to USA Today. "That's what I believe my career was built upon."
As the search for a permanent replacement for Chaisson-Cardenas is being conducted, 4-H Region 13 ISU Extension and Outreach Director Andrea Nelson was named by Lawrence as 4-H Iowa’s interim director.
The former 4-H leader was intent on mainstreaming the LGBTQ lifestyle into the conservative youth group’s outreach programs, but when many Christian and conservative leaders called the organization out for allowing the announcement of the proposed radical policies, any consideration of the plans were quickly abandoned.
“The suggested policy would have allowed the program’s transgender members to use the restrooms, locker rooms and overnight accommodations that correspond to their gender identity, the paper [Register] reported,” Fox News informed. “The program's leaders ultimately decided against the plan.”
Going behind his boss’ back?
Lawrence explained to the Registry that the public unveiling of Chaisson-Cardenas’ proposed inclusion policy was accidental, insisting that his university was never informed about the policy.
“Quite frankly, what was posted up there didn’t go through the process,” Lawrence told the Register in late May. “For one, 4-H doesn’t make policy, Iowa State does, and so it was posted without the rest of the university knowing about it."
It was further noted that after the inclusion policy was publicized, the Christian legal firm, Liberty Counsel, was contacted by numerous parents, students and employees with 4-H, who voiced their concerns that the policy compromised their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Forced LGBT inclusion legally flawed
Lead attorney Mary McAlister insisted that those expressing concern were not trying to deny anyone’s rights.
“None of the people who contacted us are discriminating against anyone,” she asserted, according to Fox News. “We are just saying we need to have the proper balance so that nobody’s rights are discriminated against.”
McAlister described the inclusion policy as being illegitimate, and soon after the plan was announced, she informed ISU that she was giving it a month before “additional action” would be taken. It was not long before the university decided abandon the policy.
“The guidance is discriminatory, unconstitutional and without legal authority,” the attorney wrote, according to WND. “It misstates the law regarding protected classes, and falsely adds ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity or expression’ … [elevating] them above statutorily protected classes of biological ‘sex’ and ‘religion.' [ISU should confirm that] all non-statutory ‘protected classes’ have been removed from Extension nondiscrimination policies to avoid confusion, [and] where statutorily protected classes of ‘religion’ and ‘sex conflict with non-statutory terms like ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity or expression,’ the former will prevail over the latter.”
McAlister made several other demands in her letter.
“[4-H employees, volunteers or youth members could not be required to use] false gender pronouns [and] ‘transgender’ youth and adults will be accommodated with participation in all 4-H programs and accommodations consistent with their actual biological sex,” the letter continued. “It is not ‘discrimination’ for 4-H program participants to continue using correct (as opposed to false) gender pronouns. [Nor is it discrimination] to maintain longstanding sex-appropriate accommodations for males and females, based on legitimate, unchangeable biological differences between the two sexes.”
She made it clear that setting apart different facilities for girls and boys is not discriminatory, but common sense.
“Anatomical differences between males and females – and the reasonable expectations of privacy that flow from those differences (not ‘discrimination’) – account for laws and policies that require or permit separate housing, bathroom and shower facilities for males and females,” McAlister stressed.
Step backward for LGBT privileges
LGBT advocate, Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director Nate Monson, believes that Chaisson-Cardenas’ termination is keeping the LGBT agenda from moving forward, as he saw the former director as someone who was working to push homosexual and transgender student “rights” forward.
"I hope his firing was not based off his support of this policy," Monson expressed, according to USA Today. "If it is, that's very disheartening because it's sending the message that LGBTQ kids aren't welcome in 4-H. Frankly, I’m shocked. All I have heard about John-Paul is that he really raised the bar for 4-H in Iowa – as far as creating a space for all kids and allowing all kids the chance to participate safely and on equal footing.”
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis argues that every gender-confused child should have his or her specific requests for accommodations met by 4-H.
"While the 4-H program should work to meet each child’s needs in an individualized way, civil rights protection under the law protect all kids," Bettis wrote in an email obtained by USA Today. "So, if a child prefers to use a separate restroom or changing room, 4-H should accommodate that. The program cannot force kids to use a separate space different from the rest of the kids, or into ‘gender-neutral’ options if that is not what the student prefers."
Trump trumping Obama’s transgender guidance
After the Obama administration set up a guidance ordering public schools and other state-run institutions to provide transgender accommodations for gender-confused students and employees, the Trump administration – along with recent court decisions – have worked to undermine previous LGBT-friendly interpretations that so-called sex discrimination statutes support transgender individuals’ “right” to have these places conform with their specific gender identity.
“In February 2017, the Trump administration rescinded the Department of Education guidance that instructed schools to allow transgender students to use facilities associated with their gender identity,” USA Today recounted.
Just three months after doing away with former President Barack Obama’s pro-LGBT inclusion guidance, President Donald Trump issued his “Religious Freedom” executive order, along with a 20-point memo.
“Except in the narrowest of circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law,” Trump’s memo drafted in May 2017 reads, according to USA Today.