LA lifeguard, evangelical Christian sues county for requiring him to work near Pride flag

The veteran lifeguard was disciplined last summer for taking down thee Progress Pride flags

Published: May 30, 2024 8:47am

A veteran Los Angeles County lifeguard and an evangelical Christian is suing his employer for requiring him last summer to work near a Pride flag and punishing him for taking down three of the flags.

The lifeguard, Jeffrey Little, initially stationed Will Rogers Beach, which includes a stretch popular among gay beachgoers.

The lawsuit, was filed in federal court Friday, days before Pride month begins across the country, according to the Los Angles Times.

Last year, the county board of supervisors voted in favor of requiring many government buildings – including lifeguard towers – to fly the Progress Pride flag throughout Pride month.

The county fire department, which oversees lifeguards, declined to comment on the matter, citing policy about ongoing litigation. 

In June 2023, Little, who is a lifeguard captain, told higher-ups that he wanted to be exempt from the county policy ordering the raising of the flag.

He also said he was a devout evangelical who “adheres to traditional Christian beliefs regarding the moral illicitness of same-sex activity, the immutability of sex regardless of gender identity, and the view that all people are children of God regardless of their skin color,” according to the lawsuit.

“The views commonly associated with the Progress Pride flag on marriage, sex, and family are in direct conflict with Captain Little’s bona fide and sincerely held religious beliefs on the same subjects,” the suit also states, the newspaper also reports.

Little's higher-ups initially agreed to give him a religious accommodation and change his shift so he could work at a site that didn't have a flag, the lawsuit states.

However, when he arrived at this new post, which was not supposed to have flag, he spotted three at nearby facilities, according to a complaint he filed with the county.

Little said he was informed that a supervisor had dropped off the flags and ordered they be flown, which Little alleged was a form of religious discrimination.

He took down all three flags, according to the suit.

The next day he received a “direct order” to ensure the Pride flag was flown through June.

The day after, according to the lawsuit, Little was suspended from his post in the department unit that investigates emergency incidents on the beach.

This spring, Little asked again for accommodations so he wouldn't have to work near the Pride flag, according to the suit.

He said the county has not “substantively engaged” with him and warned him he would be subject “to discipline and eventual termination" for failure to raise the Progress Pride flag.

The suit names the fire department and three lifeguard supervisors and claims the county discriminated against Little's religious freedom.

Little is asking a judge to order the county to give him a “standing exemption” from raising the Pride flag and for damages for “severe emotional distress,” among other demands.

Attorneys Charles S. LiMandri and Paul M. Jonna, who both have their own law firms and serve as special counsel for the Thomas More Society, did not respond to a request for comment, The Times also reports.

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