Florida Adventist Teacher Fired after Revealing He Is Gay — and More News Shorts

In this week’s news round-up, sixth grade teacher Steven Arauz was fired after revealing he is gay, and more news from Loma Linda, Canada, Kenya, and Zambia.

Florida Adventist Teacher Fired after Revealing He Is Gay. According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, Steven Arauz, who taught sixth grade at Forest Lake Education Center in Longwood, Florida, has been fired after giving an interview to the online magazine Gays With Kids, revealing that he is gay. Arauz had been viewed as a model foster and adoptive parent, a single dad who gave talks to foster-parenting classes and urged others at his Seventh-day Adventist church to help needy children, too. Four years ago, the statewide Adventist organization put Arauz and his newly adopted son on the cover of its magazine.

“The irony is that, as Christians, we like to say, ‘Everyone belongs. Come as you are and follow Jesus,'” Arauz said. “But then if they find something they don’t agree with, you’re thrown out.”

Arauz also says his firing from Forest Lake Education Center in Longwood is unjust because the school accepts public money in the form of state scholarships and federal coronavirus aid.

In a statement to the Orlando Sentinel, Frank Runnels, superintendent of schools for the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, wrote that Adventist teachers are part of the church’s ministry and “must teach, support, and live in accordance with the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” Arauz, he added, “breached this agreement” through his “conduct and advocacy.” The Seventh-day Adventist church’s position is that “sexual intimacy” should take place only between a married man and woman. “The Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships,” its website says.

Following the news, the CEO and president of AdventHealth’s Central Florida hospitals sought to separate its mission and beliefs from that of the school, telling employees in an email obtained by the Orlando Sentinel that he is “proud” to welcome workers and patients without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.

CEO Daryl Tol’s email, sent late last week, stopped short of criticizing the actions of the school, Forest Lake Education Center — which, like the hospital system, was founded by Seventh-day Adventists. The hospital system gave $22,500 to the school in 2018, according to the most recent tax records available.

But Tol also called teacher Steven Arauz a friend.

“As an active member of his Seventh-day Adventist church, he has been a friend to many, including me,” Tol wrote. “He has taught the children of our team members, mine included, and he’s been a strong advocate for foster care and adoption throughout the state of Florida.”

Arauz said he and Tol are both members of the same Adventist church, WholeLife, which its pastors say welcomes everyone, including those who are gay, straight, bisexual or transgender.

From the Orlando Sentinel, “Gay teacher fired from Adventist school in Longwood that accepts state scholarships” and “After Adventist school fires gay teacher, AdventHealth CEO tells workers he’s ‘proud’ to support inclusion.”

Pregnant Latina Woman Admitted to Loma Linda University Medical Center with COVID Shares Her Story. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the last thing Monica Ramirez remembers is hearing her doctor’s voice. “You have COVID, honey,” he said. “But you’re going to be OK.” She had driven herself to the emergency room at Corona Regional Medical Center on a blistering afternoon in July. She was 38 years old, 30 weeks pregnant, and she could not breathe.

Ramirez woke up from a medically induced coma nearly three weeks later. In a different city. In a different hospital. Hooked up to a ventilator. The room was dark. Her first thought? That she had somehow ended up in a dungeon. And then she heard laughter.

“All the doctors and nurses were clapping and high-fiving,” she said. “They were asking my nurse for the day, ‘Where’s her baby? How’s her baby?’

“But I didn’t know what baby they were talking about, because I was still pregnant.”

The jubilation in the intensive care unit at Loma Linda University Medical Center that day stemmed from a simple fact: Ramirez had regained consciousness. Fourteen days earlier, doctors had delivered her baby by emergency caesarean section.

Of the 48 pregnant women who have been admitted to Loma Linda University Medical Center with COVID-19, 45 are Latina — an extreme snapshot of a disease that has infected and killed Latinos at a rate disproportionate to their share of the population.

“What’s unique about COVID-19 is we haven’t really been able to identify out of the gate why some moms seem not sick at all,” said Dr. Courtney Martin, medical director for maternity services at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. “And then another portion are insanely sick, like Monica. Who almost died. Several times.”

From the Los Angeles Times, “She’s pregnant, she has COVID-19, and she can’t breathe.”

Kenyan Adventist Youth Build New House for Elderly Widow. According to a report in Tuko, a group of Seventh-day Adventist youth from Homa Bay county, Kenya, built a new house for Selina Akumu who had lost her husband and six children some years back and was now living a desperate life since she had no one to help her. Akumu's house was being destroyed by termites and was at a point of collapsing since its walls were weakening each day.

Shem Ochieng, the youth’s leader, said the Bible encourages the ministry to help the needy, adding that according to the Book of James 1:27, true worship of God entails helping widows and orphans. “We agreed as youths to help the old woman despite the fact that she was not one of us because helping the needy is beyond denomination,“ said Ochieng.

Wycliffe Onyango, another youth said as a Christian you have to help the needy without considering one’s denominational background. “When we heard of the old woman’s plight, we were very concerned and decided to do something for her as youths,” said Onyango. They mobilized youths and were able to raise KSh 40,000 which they used to support the widow by constructing her a house first.

The old woman could not hide her joy. She thanked the youths and encouraged other people to follow suit, saying that we are on earth to help each other. “I believe that God is the one who sent them to me. l was living in fear because the house could collapse anytime, but thanks be to God who sent his people to come to my rescue,” the widow said.

From Tuko, “SDA youth build house for elderly widow from another church who lost all her 6 children.”

Adventist and Community-run Food Bank Receives $20,000 Surprise Donation. According to a report in rdnewsNow, a very large and surprise donation was dropped off to the Lacombe Food Bank in Alberta, Canada earlier this month. Through a national initiative to give back to the 13 communities where the company has locations, Fraserway RV presented those who run the local food bank with a check for $20,000.

Mellie Snow, with the Seventh-day Adventist and community-run food bank, says the money will go a long way toward getting the agency and its clients through the holiday season. “It didn’t hit me until I was writing the receipt for it; I realized it was $20,000, not $200. It’s enormous,” says Snow. “Over the summer, people were generous with donations, but it’s kind of tapered off with everything settled in. We’re doing okay, but this will really help us.”

Snow notes that the food bank can always use stocking up of the regular items, namely non-perishables which include macaroni, beans, soup, rice and baking staples such as sugar, flour and salt. The food bank also runs a thrift store out of its upstairs, and frequently gives out warm clothing to those in need locally. They also regularly send shipments overseas to communities in Ghana and Uganda through a company in Edmonton.

“It’s probably one of the biggest checks they’ve seen in a while,” says Peter Schmucker, general manager at Fraserway RV in Lacombe. “They were in tears and were pretty stoked and excited about it.” He adds that it’s important for the company to give back to the community because of how well the community has supported them. The other twelve Fraserway RV locations received the same amount to give to local charities.

From rdnewsNow, “Lacombe Food Bank receives ‘enormous’ donation from local business.”

Zambia SDA Church Plans Medical School. According to a report in The Mast, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Zambia has plans to open a medical school that will be training doctors. David Nkhoma, a Zambian based in the United States of America, has donated hospital equipment worth over K4 million to Mwami Adventist Hospital in Chipata. SDA Southern Zambia Executive Union President Harrington Akombwa said by running hospitals, schools, and other institutions, the SDA church was merely discharging its mission.

“The Seventh-day Adventist [Church] is following the footsteps of Jesus Christ who we are told in Mathew Chapter 9 verse 35 went to every town, to every city, doing three things: he was healing, he was teaching, and preaching,” he said. “Healing was number one; the Seventh-day Adventist Church is discharging its mission, taking the Gospel of Jesus everywhere. We’ve opened hospitals and clinics not because we have enough money to spare. We built hospitals not to compete with anyone. Sometimes, there is a spirit that comes up that we are doing these things as if we are challenging somebody; we are simply not. We are supplementing the effort of the government.”

Akombwa said Nkhoma’s donation was an encouragement to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the government at large.

From The Mast, “SDA church announces plans to establish medical school.”

Homeless Man Suing Loma Linda University Medical Center for Security Guards’ Brutal Assault. According to a report in CBS Los Angeles, a homeless man is suing Loma Linda University Medical Center two years after a security camera in the emergency room caught the moment security guards took him down. “He was viciously, brutally assaulted,” attorney Daniel Balaban said of his client, 40-year-old Jesie Simpson. “Mr. Simpson was piled on by three or four Allied Universal Security Services security guards at Loma Linda. He was tackled, beaten, choked.”

Attorneys say Simpson had undergone neck surgery two weeks before the October 2018 altercation and was back for a follow up. He was prescribed more medication by his doctor, and his attorney said he was trying to get to the pharmacy when the encounter happened.

The beating landed Simpson back in the hospital for four days. “After they choke him out and he’s rendered unconscious, he’s put into a wheelchair like a dog,” Balaban said. “At some point [he was] woken up by the medical staff with smelling salts, he awakes, he’s startled, so they take him down again.”

“It was a needless, awful tragedy that shouldn’t have happened,” Balaban said.

Balaban said when he saw the video, it reminded him of the George Floyd video.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “This was almost two years prior, and there they are right on this guy’s neck, him struggling for air, saying he can’t breathe.”

The hospital initially pressed charges against Simpson for trespassing and battering a security guard, but a jury acquitted him of all the charges last July. A hospital representative said the institution could not comment on pending litigation. Allied did not immediately return a request for comment.

From CBS Los Angeles, “‘Needless, Awful Tragedy’: Homeless Man Sues Loma Linda Hospital Over 2018 Beating.”

 

Please note: Spectrum news round-ups are an aggregation of regional, national, and international publications around the world that have reported on stories about Adventists. As such, the accuracy of the information is the responsibility of the original publishers, which are noted and hyperlinked at the end of each excerpt.

 

Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Yucaipa, California.

Photo by Jose Pablo Garcia on Unsplash

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10822

One of the striking aspects of the Florida case is the disparity between the church regard for hospitals and teachers. Mr. Tol reportedly has a salary of over $1.4 million while the teacher subsisted on $49k a year. The hospital donated $22,400 to the school total for a year and wonders what to do with all of the rest of their money. Maybe if the hospital did more to support the schools we would not be reading about government money being necessitated. And don’t get me started on the outright discrimination against this brother because he has a relationship with a man instead of a woman. That is discriminatory and unnecessary.

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Maybe I missed it in the article, but was (is) Arauz in any homosexual relationship? Or was he fired just because he IS gay?

This makes a big difference. If the school superintendent is not properly educated on the “gay issue,” he may be acting as if Arauz chose to be gay instead of just being gay.

I am always appalled how bad decisions are made due to ignorance. I wonder if this is another case of the same…

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The original article referenced the fact that he had a boyfriend…

But I will add, the SDA primary/secondary educational system is now out a superstar teacher, who was loved and respected by his students and colleagues.

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Arauz should not have accepted a job when he knew full well it required him to be aligned with the school’s philosophy which is not supportive of same-sex relationships. He is now using the good name of Forest Lake Elementary School as a pawn in his nationwide campaign.

His actions show he did not deserve the trust of the families who put kids under his care and influence. The school does not owe Arauz anything; religious organizations are shielded from governmental meddling. While we should all support the civil rights of same sex relationships, we should all the more celebrate the separation of church and state.

Jacki Hill-Perry has a powerful story which we should all ponder:

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Is not the Florida sacking if a gay teacher the predictable and intended outcome of the GC’s insistence to narrow our church’s definition of marriage? The school probably had no discretion regarding his ongoing employment because of policies that want this kind of purge to happen.
How can our church be reformed against this shrinking mindset?

One can hope but things look bleak for organized religion. Time to live the faith we have as individuals. The world should see us as living in the unconditional Love, Freedom and Equality which the Gospel offers. And always be prepared to give an answer for the faith we have, 1 Peter 3:15.

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Agree. It was completely dishonest to accept the job. Irresponsibility has consequences. I hope he is not surprised now that he was fired. He should have resigned.

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we can throw out the bible, for starters…we can also throw out egw…then we can be completely like the world around us…

i think this story illustrates why LGBT questions shouldn’t be made a test for fellowship or employment…it ends up doing more harm than good…instead of having their attention called to biblical testimony and things of eternal weight, most onlookers will be thinking about questions of discrimination, and how uncaring our church is…

it’s better to maintain our biblical position, but treat LGBT as a lifestyle issue left up to personal conscience…this approach will enable productive conversation when the time is right, without stirring up controversy and resentment…

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EGW would be rolling over in her grave if she knew…that hospitals are money factories, CEOs (unheard of to her) make million$, and we are even mentioning homosexual relationships in a church setting. If you think behavior should not be an issue, think again. I find it odd that a state or company wants to ban Trump or travel, then tells another institution that it can’t ban someone. Too funny. What comes around, goes around. Ban me, I can ban you. No matter. Behavior matters. Would you allow a smoker to tell his.her students that they smoke and tough luck? Show up at school with beer on the breath? Hey, one drink is okay, right? So we should allow it all. It’s funny that those rioting to ban certain behavior, are themselves telling others…you can’t ban us. Sorry, we can ban you.

these behaviours, when proscribed, don’t come with the same baggage of discrimination and civil rights weight that LGBT does…in addition, smoking and drinking can be demonstrated to be harmful…the bible’s teaching on homosexuality, like it’s teaching on the seventh-day sabbath, rests purely on its inspired authority…there’s really nothing that corroborates it outside of that authority…

it’s a question of taking a course that avoids unnecessary negatives…egw’s time, and whether she’d be rolling in her grave if she knew what’s happening now, is quite irrelevant…if we want to use egw, or an even less applicable biblical figure, as a helpful source of reference, the way to do that isn’t to infer their reactions if they were confronted with our realities, but to study how they managed their own realities…egw, for instance, wrote against one of our churches who disfellowshipped a heavy smoker, even though she taught incessantly against smoking…her point was that the disfellowshipped individual was far in advance in spirituality than those who disfellowshipped him, and that there was a better course to handle this man’s smoking than disfellowshipping him, 12MR:285-286…

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If you can for a moment think outside the Adventist bubble, consider the impact this story will have on the populace of Central Florida. The hero of the story is Daryl Tol. People will read the pieces in the Orlando Sentinel and see the love and compassion demonstrated by Tol and the accepting attitude of AdventHealth. Hopefully, that is what will strike the readers most.

I know Daryl Tol. He is a fine person and outstanding leader.

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Mr. Stephenundercoversda, did you know that if AdventHealth were a publicly traded stock company it would rank at about #270 on the Fortune 500 list as ranked by revenue? Did you know it enjoys a AA rating from the major rating agencies as an outstanding credit-worthy entity? AdventHealth is a major enterprise that deals with competitive market risks every day and serves millions of people. Do you think the top executives should be paid a pastor’s wage for leading such an enterprise? There are thousands of AdventHealth employees that earn far more than a pastor or the GC President because they are paid market competitive salaries. So what do you think the leader should earn? What seems right to you in this situation? The executive salaries are determined by market surveys of comparable roles across the healthcare industry. Yes, White would probably be shocked, but she would likely also be shocked at the extent of the presence AdventHealth has across the country for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

By the way, why don’t you come out of whatever closet you are in, being undercover and all.

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However, why does it seem necessary to pay Adventhealth administrators market salaries, but not pay our college/university presidents and VPs market salaries?

SDA University administrators are paid a relatively competitive salary within the domain they are working. When salaries are compared across similar size and configuration of school, they are not far off the mark. That said, they are not paid like major state, and private university administrators, but that is a factor of relative markets segment…

Good question, Peter. I like Dee Roberts answer above. However, pay practices are not standardized across Adventist colleges and universities as the GC would like. Some schools pay closer to market rates and some stick with GC policy. This is particularly true of the president’s position. Presidential salaries are scattered, with most exceeding GC policy guidelines. Little known stuff. But I know of no sanctions or shaming of union or their schools for paying higher salaries. Presumably, that is because the policy variances do not violate the headship heresy.

How many single teachers have pre-marital heterosexual sexual relationships? Don’t ask, don’t tell.

I won’t bring up pornography - secrets.

Just thinking out loud!

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I’ll reply by writing and not pretend that I am “Just thinking out loud!”

If you are having pre-marital sex and are publicly bragging about it, would you expect consequences?

If you “won’t bring up pornography”, why did you bring it up?

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I am so thankful that someone saw the need and was so generous. So many will depend on agencies like yours this winter. And congratulations, Millie and helpers for the tremendous work you have done over the years.

Well, since didn’t bring up anything…, :roll_eyes:
I too won’t bring up the fact that if any worker has heterosexual relationships and it becomes known, that person will have the safe fate as Arauz’s.
Therefore, I believe that Arauz got a fair deal.