Volleyball coach ‘forced to resign’ from Christian school after being told to ‘denounce being gay’

Valor Christian High School volleyball coach Inoke Tonga poses at a piano and poses with a dog in a second photo

A gay volleyball coach has said he was forced to resign from Valor Christian High School after senior officials told him to “denounce being gay”.

Inoke Tonga served as a coach at the religious school in Denver, Colorado, for the 2020-2021 season before senior members of staff learned that he was gay.

Tonga – who is both gay and a Christian – had been asked to come back to the school to help coach the girls’ volleyball team for 2021-2022 – however, his tenure at Valor came to an unexpected end following a lengthy meeting about his sexuality.

On Thursday (19 August), Tonga was asked to attend a meeting with the campus pastor and athletic director before a practice session for the girls’ team.

“Unaware of what conversation was awaiting me, I was bright eyed and happy to be there because our interactions prior to that day were always so refreshing,” Tonga wrote in a wide-ranging Facebook post.

In the meeting, Tonga said he was asked if he had experienced any “changes in lifestyle” that the school should be aware of.

He was “repeatedly asked that question” before the pastor and athletic director asked if he had posted anything “inappropriate” on social media that went against the school’s values.

The school officials eventually pressed Tonga on whether he had posted about being gay online.

“My answer was yes,” Tonga wrote. “Of course I advocate for LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, especially those struggling with finding a relationship with God.”

Valor volleyball coach was told parents ‘pay too much’ to have their kids taught by a gay man

Tonga noted that the culture document he was given by Valor Christian High School didn’t mention anything about the school’s stance on LGBT+ issues, so he had no idea that being openly gay was prohibited.

Over the course of an hour and a half, Tonga was grilled on his sexuality. The pastor “purposely and ignorantly” got the LGBT+ acronym wrong, and Tonga was told that being gay could be seen as a “danger” to the school and its students.

“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,'” Tonga wrote.

Tonga said the pastor and athletic director went on to tell him that they doubted he was even gay because of the “love” he had for the children he worked with at the school.

The Valor volleyball coach was told that he just needed “direction” to help him become a “child of God”.

Tonga said the pastor and athletic director closed out the meeting by telling him they weren’t trying to “convert” him into a straight man.

He was ultimately given two choices. “One choice was to ‘denounce being gay'”.

“I want you to cut off that part of who you think you are. Go home and delete any posts on social media that speak about being gay. We want you to realise you aren’t gay. You need to become a child of God,'” Tonga was told.


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A post shared by Inoke Tonga (@inoke.tonga)

His other option was to be true to himself and continue living as a gay man – but it was implied he would lose his coaching position unless he agreed to repent.

In the end, Tonga said he was told that he can’t be allowed to work with the students at Valor Christian High School as a gay man.

“I sat in that room for an hour and a half being belittled by men who knew nothing about who I am, what I’ve done in life, what obstacles I’ve overcome, the understanding I have of the living scriptures, and more importantly the love I have for my saviour and lord, God,” Tonga wrote.

“With my head held high, and with tears ready to be shed for hours, even days, I walked away knowing that my journey as a coach at Valor Christian had come to an end – I was not going to ‘denounce identifying as a gay man.'”

Tonga said the pastor and athletic director told his students and the wider school community that he chose to leave – but he disagrees with that characterisation of what happened.

In reality, Tonga said he was “pushed out” because he refused to denounce his sexuality.

He has been praised as a positive role model for young people

The Valor volleyball coach has been inundated with supportive messages since sharing his story on social media on Saturday (21 August).

An Instagram post about his experience has been liked more than 6,000 times, while many have heaped praise on him for speaking out.

“I can’t think of a better role model I would want around my kids! God lives you and so do I,” one person wrote.

Another commented: “God made no mistakes on you or anyone else for that matter. Sending you love and prayers and I hope and pray that school and those men get what they deserve.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Valor Christian High School said it “loves and respects all students, families and other participants” in its community.

“As a Christian faith community, Valor requires its staff, faculty and volunteer leaders – those who represent the Valor community and guide the spiritual development of our students – to agree with Valor’s Christian beliefs set forth in our statement of beliefs and in other politics and to live in accordance with such beliefs.”

The school said Tonga signed a statement “affirming his alignment with Valor’s beliefs and community standards”.

“Last week, Valor became aware of a Facebook posting by coach Inoke that suggested he may not support Valor’s beliefs pertaining to sexuality and marriage.

“Valor’s campus pastor and athletic director initiated a conversation with coach Inoke to explore this matter further. Following this discussion, coach Inoke provided a statement to Valor in which he concluded that he does not support Valor’s beliefs, and he requested a separation from Valor.

“Based on this conclusion, Valor agrees that a separation is appropriate.”

The school went on to claim that Tonga has “misrepresented” the matter, but said it “appreciates the contributions he has made to the student-athletes in our volleyball program”.