WASHINGTON (BP)–Larry Phillips loves children. So much so, the 46-year-old Baptist from Independence, Mo., dedicated himself to a low-paying career helping the most abused, neglected and forgotten kids find a safe haven while the judicial system decided their fate.
What Phillips didn’t expect was a battle with an office supervisor, who described himself in a newspaper interview as an “in your face queer who gets angrier every day.”
As a social worker for the Missouri Department of Social Services, Phillips was in charge of interviewing abused children and finding them quality foster care homes in which to live while the judicial system decided their fate.
Last fall, he sued his employer for discrimination and won $86,000 in damages and attorney fees. Another trial is scheduled the week of April 24 to consider three more counts of discrimination Phillips has raised against his former employer. Phillips is represented by the American Center for Law and Justice, Virginia Beach, Va.
“My work environment was totally bizarre,” Phillips told Baptist Press. “The supervisor in question was very anti-heterosexual and wanted everyone to know it, and wanted everyone to agree with him and his work strategies to encourage children to at least experiment with homosexual sex. I could not abide by this, especially from a state office charged with protecting already abused, traumatized children who already were at their most vulnerable point.
“Some homosexuals believe if they can get themselves and others accepted by state foster care systems, they can get abused vulnerable children into their homes, where they can be exploited,” he added.
“After three years, a homosexual foster parent can adopt the child. This gives them a back door into the adoption process. After they adopt the child, they then believe they are free to raise them any way they want, and in truth, with laws seeming more and more to protect such perverted behavior, this strategy is paying dividends for the homosexual movement,” Phillips said.
When he took a stand opposing a sexually explicit brochure which the male homosexual supervisor insisted all of his subordinates carry and distribute to foster children and to school children during talks at public schools, Phillips said he was taunted for 20 months on the job and eventually fired.
Sponsors of the pamphlets included the local AIDS education program for Jackson County, which is licensed by the state of Missouri, Planned Parenthood, the militant homosexual group ACT-UP and an HIV organization, Phillips said.
“This was one sick piece of literature they were passing out, with sick drawings and language, including [profanity], that would get a radio station’s license revoked if read over the air,” Phillips said.
Called, “What They Won’t Teach You in School,” the brochure reads, in part, “Sex can be a lot of things, women with women, men have sex with men, women have sex with men — and sometimes the best sex is with yourself.”
Phillips said that Jay Seculow, the ACLJ’s chief counsel, told him the state could continue to file motions delaying payment of any penalties and attorney fees “forever” from his court battles.
“Jay said my coffin could be closed before I ever see anything,” he added.
But Phillips said he is fighting for the principle that Christians in the workplace can exercise their beliefs by following their conscience in work-related matters.
“The supervisor in question is a very militant homosexual who has no business serving as supervisor of Child Abuse Neglect. Having a militant homosexual in that job is more than bizarre if you think about it,” Phillips said. “While I was working there, he began to actively promote the homosexual agenda everywhere, all the time.”
Phillips said the supervisor was brazen in supporting the homosexual lifestyle, even having a cynical poster on his office wall that questioned the causes for heterosexuality.
The supervisor, who Phillips said he would not name to avoid any repercussion from the judge, once walked into Phillips’ office with a baseball bat, smacking it against his hand in a threatening way. Phillips said he testified in the first court case about this, as well as the pamphlets and other subtle and obvious forms of harassment he endured on the job.
“I could not in good conscience support his active promotion at work of what I believe is a perverted lifestyle. I crossed him early on by saying I would not support his search to find homosexual foster parents for the children I was charged to protect,” Phillips said. The supervisor was so blatant in his lobbying for the homosexual lifestyle that he even poured tainted blood in the city council chambers, but was not arrested, Phillips said.
“It was a bizarre time. This was not just about one homosexual, but one agency supporting a whole homosexual agenda. This is about the director of the State Division of Family Services, and two different supervisors, wanting to actively license and recruit homosexual foster parents,” Phillips said.
“Kids in the foster care system are at their most vulnerable stage. They are very needy, often already abused victims of sexual and physical abuse, crying out for help, wanting a mom and dad. I had a child, age 9, beg me to get her out of the home of a lesbian. She was very afraid. As a result of that interview with her, I was called into my direct supervisor’s office and told not to register that in my report. I registered it anyway. Eventually the girl got out of that situation,” Phillips said.
In October 1999, Phillips won a lawsuit charging his employer with discrimination, based on his religious beliefs. A judge recently upheld the jury’s decision, turning down an appeal of the trial by the state. Phillips was awarded $26,000 in actual and punitive damages and $60,000 in attorney fees. The state has indicated it will appeal those payments to a higher court.
A new trial has been ordered to begin April 26 to try three more counts of discrimination by the Department of Social Services for the state of Missouri against Phillips. The new trial has been ordered because the jury in the October 1999 trial was deadlocked on three additional charges of discrimination Phillips raised against his former employer.
On March 29 of this year, U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey denied Missouri’s motion to overturn that verdict. The judge also awarded Phillip’s attorneys from the ACLJ $60,000 in fees. Neither the punitive damages nor the attorney fees have been paid as yet, said Francis J. Manion, regional director of the Midwest office of the ACLJ, who served as lead attorney in defending Phillips.
The judge ordered a settlement conference April 17, but Manion said the Attorney General’s office for the state of Missouri said it will not agree to settle the case. “They offered us $5,000 to walk away. Needless to say, we will not. We will go to court next week and hope to win,” he said.
“We were willing to accept the jury’s verdict and the punitive damages and attorneys fees, but the state of Missouri has said it intends to keep fighting and will not settle,” Manion said. “By ruling to uphold the original trial verdict and awarding attorney fees, the court sends a strong message that government officials must not take action against employees because of their religious beliefs.”
Both Phillips and Manion told Baptist Press they are confident they will prevail in the new trial. “We have a very strong case and have learned a lot from the first trial on how best to present the evidence we have,” Manion said. “This is not a complex case in that it involves discrimination against Phillips by an avowed homosexual who is head of the Kansas City Act Up homosexual movement and has been quoted in the local press as saying he is an “in-your-face queer who gets angrier every day.”
“All Larry Phillips ever wanted to do was help orphaned and neglected kids find decent and loving homes,” Manion said. “His government employers harassed him because he held strong religious beliefs that these children should not be placed in the homes of homosexuals. In upholding the jury’s verdict in Phillips’ favor, the court has reaffirmed the right of religious believers to do their jobs without intimidation.”
The new trial will decide two counts of harassment by his department director and his supervisor against Phillips for religious reasons and one count of harassment against the state of Missouri as his employer, Manion said.
“We have a pretty good chance of winning this. We now have a judge’s opinion, by a judge appointed by President Clinton, nonetheless, which states the state of Missouri clearly discriminated against Phillips and persecuted him for abiding by the dictates of his Christian faith on the job.”
Phillips served as a social worker from March 1994 through November 1996 at the Division of Family Services. The ACLJ filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Social Services in May 1997 on behalf of Phillips who maintained that his supervisors began to mistreat him by lowering his performance evaluations and recommending that he be fired after he told him that his religious beliefs would not permit him to endorse the granting of a foster parent license to an admitted lesbian.
Though the judge found the reason that Phillips was fired was for his religious beliefs, Phillips said he is not pursuing reinstatement. Instead he is attempting to survive by starting a nonprofit corporation as an advocate for foster and adoptive parents throughout the nation who are struggling to provide good Christian homes for foster and adopted children.
“I’ve gotten hundreds of calls, thanks to the media coverage of this incident, but the funds are slow to trickle in. These people need help, but often don’t have much money to spend fighting the system,” Phillips said. Those interested in getting counsel or supporting his work should contact Phillips at Family Affiliated Support Services, Post Office Box 1713, Independence, Missouri 64055. His phone number is 1-888-436-6901. His e-mail address is [email protected]
“This is a sign of the times,” Phillips said. “Right now, 13 churches are being sued for registering their concerns in the pulpit about homosexuals. Homosexuals are applying as organists, choir directors, that sort of thing, and saying they are as qualified as any other job candidate and thus are suing those churches for not hiring them under Title 4 of the Equal Employment Act.”
Phillips said he would continue to fight for Christians in the foster care and adoption system. “This case could set a precedent that helps overturn the rising tide against Christian family values on which this nation was founded. We must each do what the Holy Spirit directs in our daily lives to fight for what is right, what is true and what God would have us to do.”
The ACLJ is an international public interest law firm and educational organization that focuses on pro-family issues. The ACLJ’s Internet address is www.aclj.org.