Christian Lifeguard Threatened with Dismissal Because He Refused to Raise LGBTQ Flag

Los Angeles man now suing local fire department.

Captain Jeffrey Little

By Nancy Flory Published on May 31, 2024

A lifeguard is suing the Los Angeles County Fire Department for threatening to fire him because he refused to raise a gay-pride flag last June.

Jeffrey Little filed the lawsuit on May 24 after the L.A. County Fire Department revoked a religious exemption it had previously granted him over his biblical view of sexuality.

In March 2023, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors passed a resolution requiring all county-operated facilities to fly the Progress Pride Flag during the month of June, according to the complaint. June is “Pride Month.”

Revoked Religious Exemption

Little, who was the captain of the lifeguard unit at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific  Palisades, requested a religious exemption on June 18, and was told a day later that another employee of the fire department could raise the flag at the beach stations in order to accommodate his faith. Meanwhile, Little was moved to Dockweiler Beach in nearby Playa del Rey, which did not have working flag poles at that time. However, just before his shift was set to begin on June 21, a fire department section chief visited Little’s new location, modified the flagpoles, and ordered all the lifeguards to raise the Progress Pride Flag at their stations. 

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When Little arrived at work and discovered the flags, he asked his new employees if they had a problem with him removing the flags. They didn’t, so he took them down. Later that day, he received a message from the Fire Department saying that his religious exemption had been revoked.

Immediately, his section and division chiefs ordered Little to raise the flags. According to the lawsuit, one division chief told him, “You are an L.A. County employee, that’s the only thing that matters,” and “Your religious beliefs do not matter.”

Suspended Without Pay

On June 22, Little was suspended from his job and denied paid time off that he had already earned. The fire department also told people who were not authorized to have personnel information that Little had requested a religious accommodation. On June 28, someone threatened to kill Little and rape his three daughters.

Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paul Jonna is representing Little. He described Little as “an upstanding American, a devout Christian father, and a public servant who has honorably served the Los Angeles County Fire Department for over 22 years.”

“He courageously stood on principle and asked for a simple religious accommodation — which he is rightfully and legally due — only to be first denied, then threatened, harassed, discriminated, and retaliated against for his widely shared Christian religious beliefs,” he said in a statement.

“In our great country, Americans can’t even be forced to salute the American flag as a condition of government employment. Yet, in this case, the L.A. County Fire Department seeks to force Captain Little to personally raise the Progress Pride Flag in violation of his sincere and deeply held religious beliefs — or face termination. The L.A. County Fire Department’s actions are not only deeply un-American, but also flagrantly illegal. We’ve filed this federal lawsuit to vindicate Captain Little’s religious liberty rights and to firmly establish that this sort of blatant religious discrimination has no place in our public life.”

Little’s lawsuit seeks damages, a temporary restraining order, and a permanent injunction protecting his religious freedom.

 

Nancy Flory, Ph.D., is a senior editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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