November 29, 2023

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Former Ponderosa High School assistant principal Corey McNellis says he was fired for objecting to play about Matthew Shepard’s murder, sues Douglas County


When a former assistant principal at Ponderosa Large School uncovered out in 2020 that the school’s theater business planned to place on a enjoy about what occurred right after Matthew Shepard, a homosexual college university student, was murdered, he objected to the manufacturing.

Now, two several years later, Corey McNellis, who was also athletic director at the faculty, is suing Douglas County University District, alleging that the Parker faculty fired him in October 2020 due to the fact of his “Christian perception and mainly because he expressed his views, which are protected by the 1st Modification,” in accordance to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court docket for the District of Colorado, on July 1.

McNellis claims in the federal lawsuit that he identified out about the production prepared by Ponderosa’s theater company on Oct. 2, 2020, when the school’s theater director emailed workers about the enjoy – named “The Laramie Project” –  to permit them know the “nature of the play so that if we have pupils who have an aggressively adverse response to our show selection that you can aid us in encouraging learners realize.”

“This is a perform about views, and we would not want any individual in the college to believe that we are making a assertion from just about anything other than hate and violence,” the director wrote in the email according to the lawsuit.

“The Laramie Project” is an “examination of the speedy reactions of Matt Shepard’s community to the murder and to the underlying bigotry and hatred that enabled it,” according to the Tectonic Theater Task, whose staff of writers and actors traveled to Wyoming following the murder to interview nearby people to develop the play.

Shepard was beaten and tortured before he was left to die in Laramie in 1998. He was dealt with at Poudre Valley Medical center in Fort Collins in advance of he died. Authorities have reported he was specific due to the fact he was gay and the attack drew worldwide media awareness.

McNellis’s lawsuit alleges that “The Laramie Project” “is a religiously billed enjoy that covers distressing material” and that it features interviews from Laramie inhabitants, together with “Christian leaders, some of whom share unsavory opinions pertaining to Shepard’s murder, and cite their Christian religion as the reason for their sights.”

Matt Joslyn, govt director of Tectonic Theater Job, said in a statement that he could not remark on the lawsuit, but that much more than 200 several hours of interviews were utilised to make the enjoy and that its planet premiere was held in Denver.

“Yes, the perform handles distressing substance: the brutal hate crime perpetrated on an harmless particular person because of his sexual orientation,” Joslyn reported. “Its people are genuine persons from widely assorted backgrounds with numerous perspectives. At Tectonic Theater Job we stand for radical empathy, thoughtful discourse, and the continued campaign, jointly with the Matthew Shepard Basis, to erase hatred in our world.”

McNellis was fearful about “how the Christian faith will come across in the play,” claimed Spencer Kontnik, an lawyer representing McNellis.

When McNellis identified out about the enjoy, he responded in an email by inquiring, “As a Father of a university student in this article and also as an staff in the faculty, what is my recourse if I disagree with the manufacturing? Was this a heads up to see if anyone is awesome?”

An email exchange adopted among other staff associates, which include a background teacher who provided to present “a social reports perspective” on the perform. McNellis responded and “offered to supply a Christian viewpoint,” in accordance to the lawsuit.

“It unquestionably by no means experienced anything to do with anti-LGBTQ,” McNellis instructed The Denver Submit on Wednesday when requested to remark on the lawsuit. “And none of my reviews could be observed as that.”

The lawsuit did not include copies or a lot more specifics of the email trade but alleges the e-mail had been then despatched to directors, such as the district’s human resources director and the school’s principal.


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