California Christian Sues Over Public Display of Pride Flags

By: Georgia | Published: Jun 03, 2024

In Los Angeles County, a firefighter has initiated legal action against the county’s policy that mandates the display of LGBTQ+ Pride flags on government buildings. 

The lawsuit, filed by Captain Jeffrey Little, claims that this policy violates his religious freedoms as an Evangelical Christian, particularly during Pride month, which is commemorated in June.

Details of the Complaint Filed

The complaint, submitted on May 24, challenges the county’s approach to celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride month through the display of Progress Pride flags outside municipal buildings. 

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Two flags fluttering on a flagpole, a rainbow Pride flag below the California state flag, set against a backdrop of lush green trees and a clear blue sky

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Captain Little, described as a “devout Evangelical Christian who adheres to traditional Christian beliefs” regarding same-sex relationships, finds the policy conflicts with his religious beliefs.

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Initial Accommodation and Subsequent Changes

Initially, Captain Little had received a religious accommodation that relocated him to the Dockweiler area, where Pride flags were not mandated. 

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A vibrant rainbow Pride flag hanging from a white marble government building, symbolizing LGBTQ+ support

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, on June 19, 2023, modifications were made to the flagpoles in this area to enable the display of Pride flags, contrary to his earlier accommodation.

Revocation of Religious Accommodation

After removing the Pride flags during his shift, Captain Little was informed on the same day that his accommodation was revoked

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The California state flag featuring a grizzly bear over a grassy patch, modified with rainbow stripes at the bottom, flapping against a bright sky

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He was then ordered to reinstall the flags, which he alleges was a form of retaliation by his department.

Allegations of Retaliation Following Flag Incident

The complaint suggests that following the incident with the Pride flags, Captain Little faced further retaliation from the fire department. 

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A red Los Angeles County Fire Department urban search and rescue vehicle parked at a public event, surrounded by spectators

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He was removed from his position in the background investigation unit, which the lawsuit frames as a direct response to his actions and complaints.

Conflict Between Employment Duties and Personal Beliefs

The legal filing details the inherent conflict Captain Little experiences, stating, “the views associated with the flag are in direct conflict with Captain Little’s bona fide and sincerely held religious beliefs on the same subjects.” 

A firefighter's helmet marked "Firefighter 2" from the Los Angeles County Fire Department

Source: Los Angeles County Fire Department/Facebook

This statement demonstrates the personal versus professional dilemma he faces.

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Reference to Similar Legal Precedents

Captain Little’s stance is supported by historical legal precedents that allow individuals to abstain from actions that conflict with their religious beliefs. 

A simple brown cross mounted on a beige stucco wall of a church

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The complaint notes, “similar to how many courts have recognized that Jehovah’s Witnesses may not salute or pledge allegiance to the flag of any nation or state.”

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Fire Department’s Response to Accommodation Requests

According to the complaint, the fire department has not engaged substantially with Captain Little regarding his accommodation requests.

Los Angeles County Fire Department truck with a ladder extended at a disaster scene, surrounded by firefighters and debris

Source: Los Angeles County Fire Department/Facebook

It states, “Yet the Fire Department has provided no reasonable accommodation options for Plaintiff Little and confirmed that he will be subject to discipline and eventual termination for failure to raise the Progress Pride Flag.”

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Department’s Limited Commentary on Ongoing Litigation

The Los Angeles Fire Department has refrained from commenting on the ongoing litigation or any personal issues involved.

Firefighters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department standing on top of a fire truck, managing a large hose during a firefighting operation

Source: Los Angeles County Fire Department/Facebook

They have maintained a neutral stance in public communications as the legal proceedings continue.

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Legal Representation’s Criticism of the Mandate

Paul Jonna, representing Captain Little, strongly criticizes the mandatory flag raising. 

A man in a blue shirt raising a multicolored Pride flag on a flagpole, under clear blue skies.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He argues, “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.”

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Official Statements Supporting LGBTQ+ Community

Despite the legal challenge, local government officials have expressed their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. 

Close-up portrait of a smiling Caucasian woman with short blonde hair, wearing a turquoise blouse

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn has been vocal, stating, “We are seeing anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans bills being passed at an alarming rate across the country. Here in Los Angeles County we’re making our position clear.”

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Community and Government Stance on Pride Celebrations

The stance of the local government is further echoed by Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath who emphasized the community’s support.

Two smiling women, one with long dark hair and the other with red hair, taking a selfie in front of a poster with LGBTQ+ supportive messages and a Pride flag

Source: LindseyPHorvath/X

She said, “We must strive to ensure LA County is a place our LGBTQ+ community is proud to call home all year long. I look forward to celebrating Pride Month this June and seeing the Progress Pride Flag waving across the County.”

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