A man's T-shirt and his position on a controversial issue may have cost him his job at a Christian nonprofit.
Wes Breedwell announced on Twitter that downtown Nashville business Rocketown fired him Monday, and as the nonprofit responded Tuesday, the local controversy gained national attention.
Rocketown, founded by Christian singer Michael W. Smith, has been around for nearly two decades and serves as a hangout for teenagers. Its mission, according to its website, is offering hope to the next generation through Jesus Christ's love.
Breedwell apparently worked there for years until, he said, his opinions cost him his job.
The former employee said he was fired for wearing a shirt that proclaimed his support for same-sex marriage.
The shirt was created by a punk band called "Hostage Calm," which quickly took to social media after learning about Breedwell's dismissal.
Breedwell released the following statement regarding the matter:
"My name is Wes Breedwell. I am not gay but do support those who are. It's unfortunate that Rocketown chose to terminate me for what they consider lack of judgment. I have worked tirelessly for seven years to foster acceptance of all types of music and people. It was my hope that progress was being made, however, Monday brought a level of intolerance I did not expect. This is a tough time for me, I'm devastated about losing my job and I request you respect my privacy. On the advice of counsel, I cannot and will not grant requests for interviews. Lastly, please refrain from internet bashing and respect everyone's right to their opinions and beliefs."
"Hostage Calm" has played at the venue, but said they will no longer perform there, and called Breedwell's firing "equality under attack."
In response to Breedwell's claims, the nonprofit released a statement:
"Rocketown does not comment on personnel issues, but, generally speaking, an employee would not be fired for expressing opinions on marriage. At Rocketown, we are welcoming and accepting of all youth. We reach out to all kids, are inclusive and very much care about acceptance of youth from different ethnicities, sexual orientations, financial backgrounds and religions."
The nonprofit has an employee code of conduct, which doesn't specifically mention same-sex marriage, but does mention social media, saying posts "need to represent what we as the Rocketown community emulate."
Whether the shirt was Breedwell's only performance issue remains unclear, but for some it hardly matters.
"They have a legal right, probably, to do what they did, but it doesn't mean that it's prudent to terminate employees for expressing their political or religious views, especially when those views are on the shirt of a band who had actually played several times at Rocketown," said Chris Sanders, with the Tennessee Equality Project.
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