Colorado Volleyball Coach Told to Deny Being Gay or Resign

Sunday August 29, 2021
Originally published on August 24, 2021

Inoke Tonga
Inoke Tonga  (Source:Facebook)

Inoke Tonga is now a former member of the Valor Christian High School staff. He had planned to coach volleyball for a second season, but he said he decided to leave after a conversation with the school's campus pastor and athletic director last week, reported Denver television station 9News. Valor said the school requires faculty to agree with the school's Christian beliefs, and the coach didn't support those beliefs around sexuality and marriage.

Tonga said that the school became aware that he might not support their beliefs regarding homosexuality from one of his Facebook posts that identified him as a gay man. He met with the school's campus pastor and athletic director to discuss the issue, and was given a choice. "Be gay, or admit that I wasn't gay and that I was just having what they call a spiritual battle," said Tonga. "That was the choice Tonga said he had to make," Channel 9 writes. "After that conversation with staff, Tonga said he couldn't stay at the school any longer."

"They did say it was a danger to be in front of the kids," he said, his voice breaking with emotion. "And that to protect the kids I couldn't be in front of them."

He added the staff gave him an option: "I had to denounce being a gay man, cut off any goals I had of marrying the love of my life, and delete the post and also accept their help of becoming a child of God," he said.

Valor pointed out that Tonga had signed a statement affirming his alignment with Valor's beliefs and community standards when he was hired. The school went on to say it agrees that a separation is appropriate.

Valor Christian was founded in 2006 with a mission to "prepare tomorrow's leaders to transform the world for Christ," according to the school's website.

In a statement issued to 9 News, Valor said Tonga "has misrepresented many aspects of this matter, but it appreciates the contributions he has made to student-athletes." It added that the school "embraces, loves and respects all students, families and community members, regardless of whether or not they agree with Valor's beliefs."

Inoke Tonga with students at an event this past July  (Source: Facebook)

"I thought of my boys and I thought of my girls," said Tonga with emotion. "That's ultimately after a day, two days, why I decided to speak up."

He hopes to find another coaching job.

On Facebook he wrote a lengthy post describing his ordeal. When he was being grilled about being gay, he wrote. "I wished I would have advocated for myself and stood my ground instead of falling victim to feeling bad about myself and hating myself all over again, due to the conversations and words they were spitting at me. I testify that God sent his angels down to comfort me and make sure that these men did not see me break and cry because of the way they were subtly attacking me, in a very passive manner. These angels helped me to remain calm, and not show any offense to what was being said. God did not abandon me at all that day. They even went as far as telling me 'parents pay too much money to have their kids be coached and taught by someone like you who identifies as a gay man.' "

Micah Porter, a Colorado school administrator and Education Coordinator for the Sports Equality Foundation, told Outsports that Valor Christian is violating the mission of the Colorado High School Activities Association.

"In a State where the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) champions equity and inclusion, this messaging to Coach Tonga from Valor Christian is deplorable," Porter said. "Valor Christian participates as a member school of CHSAA, and the school should be held accountable for abandoning CHSAA's principles of equity. Even more concerning is the message that this sends to youth and teens all around the State of Colorado.

"For a school of this stature to tell a coach to hide and denounce their sexuality, does deep damage to young people who need institutions and role models in the LGBTQ+ sports community. We will continue to voice opposition to Valor's discrimination and stand in solidarity with Coach Tonga."