A Catholic organist has said he was forced to resign just for being gay, it was revealed today (24 September).
Nick Johns was given the choice between termination or resignation from his job as an organist at the Catholic Church of St Brigid in Johns Creek, Georgia.
Born into a Catholic family, the deacon's son developed a love of the organ so strong it motivated him to pursue a music degree at college and later as a career.
‘It's very lifting for me and very spiritual for me,’ he told 11 Alive News.
Johns hid his sexuality for years due to his faith, which historically has rejected homosexuality as sinful.
‘When you grow up Catholic, there's always that teaching being gay is wrong and not natural,’ he said. ‘It's the devil working inside of you.’
Tired of hiding his true self, Johns came out two years ago, aged 25, and was hired by St Brigid Catholic Church last October.
Parishioners were swift to complain over his appointment, and took pictures of Johns’ Facebook page to the head pastor Monsignor David Talley.
'They were pictures,' Johns said. 'I support marriage equality or something like that.'
Speaking to Johns over the complaints, Talley asked him to be cautious with what he makes public on social media.
The head pastor soon left his position at the church, having been named Atlanta’s Auxiliary Bishop by the Pope Benedict XVI.
Talley was replaced by Father Joshua Allen, a priest known to oppose the acceptance of homosexuality.
‘Homosexual activity is just another sin. It's not like we have a problem with this one over another one,’ Father Allen said in a video on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcaster website.
‘The Church is never going to stand by idly as society tries to turn it into something that is not a sin.’
Mere weeks after Father Allen took up his post, Johns says he received a call from Allen suspending him over ‘moral dissension’.
‘And he said “I hate to do this over the phone but you're under suspension facing possible termination due to your Facebook account being in moral dissension with the teachings of the Catholic Church”.’
The Atlanta Chapter of the American Guild of Organists have logged complaints with the church, and have said ‘No Guild member can seek employment there until the matter is resolved.'
Father Allen and the Catholic Church claim they are well within their rights to treat Johns the way they have, as employee handbooks say employees must reflect teachings.
Johns is now questioning his faith over the incident, and wonders whether he will return to it at all.
‘The Catholic Church was my home for my whole life. And this is them telling me that I'm not wanted.’