A former state social worker refuses to buckle under pressure to put foster children with lesbians
By Bob Baysinger
August 31, 2004
WEATHERBY – Reports come in frequently from third world countries about Christians being harrassed because of their faith in Christ.
Sometimes it happens in the United States.
Larry Phillips and his family now know it can happen right here in Missouri.
It’s been almost four years now since Phillips took his stand for “righteousness’ sake.”
Employed by the Missouri Division of Family Services in the Jackson County office, Phillips worked in the foster care licensing division. He had been on the job for about one year and was mentoring another employee who had been recently hired by the agency.
“My co-worker came to me and asked me what she should do,” Phillips recalled during an Aug. 19 interview with The Pathway. “She was faced with the decision of whether she should or should not place a foster child in a homosexual lesbian home. I told her I would not do that.
“I gave her that advice because I believed our first role or responsibility was the protection of children. Placing a child in that home would have put the child at potential risk. I read the home study and it indicated the relationship was strained and that there were some questions in regard to the sexual activity going on in that home.
“I told her that the bottom line was that my religious convictions would not allow me to recommend placing the child in that home.”
Phillips isn’t a Southern Baptist. He was raised in a Christian home and attended the Overland ( Kansas) Christian Schools, which are sponsored by the Church of God Holiness.
“I was raised with strong moral convictions, and it went against my conscience to go along with placing that child in that home,” Phillips said.
“The woman I was mentoring went to our supervisor and said she was not going to place the child in the home because Larry said I should not do it. The supervisor called me in. She was almost in rage. She wanted to know why I would not endorse homosexuals as foster parents,” Phillips said.
“She told me my religious beliefs were getting in the way of doing my job. Within 30 minutes, I was called into her boss’ office. It was there that I was harassed and maligned. At one point, her boss asked me if I had ever thought about finding a different career.”
The job turmoil produced many sleepless nights for Phillips.
It wasn’t just the job that created stress.
Phillips and his wife, Rosette, have a permanently disabled child that requires lots of medical care.
But Phillips’ supervisors gave little or no consideration to Phillips and his family. The onslaught continued.
Mark Chaney, a pro-homosexual employee at the Division of Family Services, got involved.
“Chaney found out I was opposed to the placement in the lesbian home, so he started a campaign against me in the office. I didn’t know this until after the lawsuit was filed. It all came out in depositions. Chaney would call staff meetings and put curses on me by sticking pins into a doll.”
Phillips gives his account of the actions of his supervisor in his book, Phillips vs. The State of Missouri (Christian House Publishers, 2002):
“I also began to find my personal space invaded by this same supervisor on numerous occasions. Many times I would go to my work area and my desk and find this supervisor sitting at my desk. On one occasion I came back from lunch and found saliva soaked sunflower seeds in my work area.
“I’ll never forget the way this supervisor on one occasion came into my work area smacking a baseball bat in his hand. He was wearing a dog collar, leather vest and leather pants. I guess he thought he could intimidate me into being quiet about what was going on.”
Phillips refused to back off from his stand. And the situation grew worse.
“The situation worsened when … Phillips complained about a piece of vile, obscene ‘educational literature’ being distributed by a supervisor in the agency,” Francis Manion ( American Center for Law and Justice) writes in the foreword to Phillips’ book.
“It was literature aimed at teenagers and describing for them how they could ‘safely’ engage in every sexual practice and perversion known to man, and then some. The supervisor was the head of the local homosexual activist group, ‘ACT UP’ and was on record describing himself as ‘an in-your-face-queer who gets angrier every day.’”
Phillips finally asked for a change of location and was transferred to the office at Independence.
“As soon as I got moved, the supervisor called me in and said she wanted me to know that she was a good friend of Mark Chaney,” Phillips said. “She assigned me to a hotline report. When I went out to investigate the report, I learned that it was a lesbian I had questioned awarding a license to a year earlier.
“There was a nine-year-old girl in the home who was terrified of what was going on in the house. I listed that in my report. The supervisor called me into her office and ordered me to take that out of the report. She said sexual activity shouldn’t have anything to do with a child being afraid.
“I refused to do that and was terminated a short time later.”
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) expressed an interest in Phillips’ situation. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ACLJ, eventually contacted Phillips and told him the ACLJ would take his case.
“We filed a federal lawsuit in Missouri. Attorney General Jay Nixon defended the state. We went all the way to the Court of Appeals and won at every juncture,” Phillips said.
The long fight started in 1996 and was finally concluded in 2001.
The final court ruling said that Phillips’ supervisor should have known about Phillips’ religious beliefs and should have made proper accommodations. The ruling added: “…accommodating Phillips’ request not to license homosexual couples would have had virtually no effect on his employment duties or his administration of the division.”
Phillips now stays busy with his not-for-profit company that advocates for parents wanting to adopt children and also advocates for foster parents that have been violated by the system.
Has the former state employee had any second thoughts about taking a stand for what he believed to be right?
“How should a Christian respond when they know they are being asked to do something that not only goes against their conscience, but the clearly revealed Word of God?” Phillips writes in his book. “The answer should be obvious to all who are in the family of God, right?
“Well, sometimes our response does not always line up with our convictions. The Bible tells us when we do something that we know is wrong, and then to us that becomes sin. I was getting ready to face a tremendous temptation that if I gave in to it would probably secure my career, but if I resisted this thing it would probably bring my career down and possibly destroy me financially as well.
“…My philosophy had been live and let live. I did not condone the homosexual lifestyle by any means, but my philosophy had been it was those people’s business what they did in the privacy of their own homes.
“My line drawing came when I was directed as a part of my job function to do something that went contrary to the law and my personally held beliefs. I often thought of the verse in Matt. 18:6: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones …”
Phillips said his outcome became obvious at one point during the ordeal.
“Almost all of my work was not being returned and picked apart in the most incremental way,” he said. “Now I understood what the Apostle Paul meant when he said you will suffer persecution if you are in Christ.”