First Transgender Lutheran Bishop Files Lawsuit Against the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Sierra Pacific Synod for Harassment, Defamation, and Whistleblowing
The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer, the first openly transgender Bishop of the country’s largest Lutheran denomination, filed a complaint today in the United States District Court – Northern District of California, alleging he was demeaned, harassed, defamed, and eventually pushed out of his role as Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod, a division of the Evangelical Church in America covering the geographical area of Northern California and parts of Nevada.
The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer was elected to the position of Bishop in a historic election during the 2021 Synod Assembly. Of over 400 people (and more than 60 percent non-clergy members) from across the Synod’s congregations, Rohrer received 209 votes to become Bishop.
Rohrer alleges that upon being elected, Church leadership resisted him, and he was repeatedly misgendered, ridiculed, and demeaned by clergy and congregants alike. Rohrer brings a claim for harassment on the basis of his sexual orientation and gender identity. He also alleges he was terminated for blowing the whistle on the Church’s violations of California labor laws.
Rohrer further alleges the Church defamed him by repeatedly implying he was “racist” in terminating a Latino pastor following a two-year investigation into more than a dozen accusations against the pastor of verbal harassment, retaliation, and “abusive activity.” As alleged in the Complaint, Rohrer was required to follow the Church’s directive to terminate the pastor on Dec. 12, the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a significant day for many Latiné congregants. After following the Church’s directive, the Church opened up an “investigation” about Rohrer’s “racist motivations,” forced him out of his role as Bishop, and made several harmful, defamatory statements portraying Rohrer as “racist” and dangerous.
Tamarah Prevost of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP stated,
“Megan Rohrer is an extraordinary individual who has dedicated his life to lifting marginalized communities in faith and in service. The Church’s public false statements implying he is racist are egregious, absurd, and are contradicted by his entire life’s work.” “As Bishop, Megan Rohrer built a bridge between the Church and the LGBTQIA+ community, who have been historically excluded by the Church. Its appalling conduct here sends a clear message not just to that community but any marginalized group unsure of whether the Church will accept them.”
The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer stated,
“I love being a Lutheran because we believe that God loves and welcomes all people. While Bishop, the Church resisted my efforts to make the Church more inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalized groups and forced me out of my role. My hope is that this lawsuit accelerates the changes that LGBTQIA+ folks, and all historically underrepresented groups, need to be safe and equal in our Church.”