Colo. Volleyball Coach Says He Was Forced to Quit His Job at Christian High School for Being Gay

Inoke Tonga said school officials offered to give him "however long it takes" to "become a child of God and denounce being gay" — or leave his position

A Colorado man claims he was forced out of his job as a volleyball coach at a religious high school due to his sexual orientation.

Inoke Tonga, 30, said officials from Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch confronted him last week about whether he had posted about being gay on social media, he wrote in an Aug. 21 Facebook post.

Tonga, who first joined the school as an assistant coach for the boy's volleyball team last spring, told CNN that during the meeting he expected to be offered the team's head coach position that opened up over the summer.

However, instead Tonga claimed that he was asked multiple times if he "had any changes in lifestyle" or had ever posted inappropriate content to social media, he wrote in his lengthy Facebook post.

"Of course, I said no – I am not one to post anything on my social media that would be inappropriate. Eventually they asked if I did an interview, or posted anything about being gay. My answer was yes," he continued, adding that then "the gates were opened and the questions came flooding."

Tonga said he was eventually given an ultimatum: denounce his sexuality or leave the position.

"They told me, 'We'll give you a day, we'll give you a week, however long it takes for you to accept our help to be healed and come to become a child of God and denounce being gay,'" Tonga told Denver7 in an interview on Tuesday. "If not, I would have to be released as a coach."

School officials confirmed the meeting to NBC News but said that Tonga left on his own accord. "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," the statement read.

The high school released a separate statement obtained by the Denver Post, in which they claimed Tonga "misrepresented many aspects of this matter."

"Valor Christian High School embraces, loves and respects all students, families and other participants in our community, regardless of whether or not they agree with Valor's beliefs," the statement read. "Although Coach Inoke has misrepresented many aspects of this matter, Valor appreciates the contributions he has made to the student athletes in our volleyball program, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors."

Valor Christian High School Denver, CO
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Multiple students at Valor Christian walked out of classes on Tuesday in protest over Tonga's departure. According to Denver7, an online post announcing the walkout stated the event was organized by students to "show support for all LGBT+ students and show the administration that discrimination and bigotry will not be tolerated."

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"During the interview process [for the job], it was such an uplifting experience. We talked about spirituality," Tonga told NBC News on Thursday. "My faith in Christ was evident to them. It [sexual orientation] was never an issue or even mentioned until someone came across a post on Facebook that I identified as a gay man."

"Being gay, in the LGBTQ+ community and identifying as Christian can co-exist," he added. "That's what I want to stress to my kids."

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