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NYC Mayor Adams fires Christian education adviser over 'anti-gay' writings: 'I feel bullied'

Eric Adams
New York Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a news conference at a Manhattan subway station on January 06, 2022, in New York City. |

Christian conservatives have spoken out against New York City Mayor Eric Adam’s dismissal of one of his education advisors, who also serves as a pastor, after The New York Daily News reported on some of her past writings on sexuality and gender.

Last week, Adams announced nine picks to the city’s Panel for Education Policy, which “replaced the former Board of Education in 2022 and is part of the governance structure responsible for the city’s public schools.”

Initially, the list of appointments included Rev. Kathlyn Barrett-Layne, the leader of Staten Island’s Reach Out and Touch Ministries.

In the initial announcement, the mayor’s office touted Barrett-Layne as a seasoned minister who “spends her time inspiring people with her speaking and teaching in Bible studies.”

After Adams announced Barrett-Layne’s appointment to the panel, The New York Daily News published an article highlighting what it characterized as “anti-gay” remarks from her past. 

Specifically, the tabloid publication took issue with Barrett-Layne’s 2013 book Challenging Your Disappointments, which listed homosexuality alongside several other sins, including “fornication, adultery, pedophilia, stealing, lying, envy, [and] covetousness.”

In the book, Barrett-Layne contended that incarcerated young people “live in the grip of fornicating homosexual lifestyles with the risk of being infected with the AIDS virus and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

In a 2004 book titled When Your Mess Becomes the Message, the pastor recalled how her 3-year-old daughter determined that “she was a boy” after overhearing her mother provide counsel to a lesbian. After her daughter’s declaration, Barrett-Layne said she and her husband “began to militantly and violently pray for, with and over our daughter” and prayed “against every spirit that was not of God, including the spirit of homosexuality.”

She wrote that the time when her daughter experienced gender confusion was “one of the most frightening experiences I had with my little girl.”

Members of the city’s LGBT community put pressure on Adams to remove Barrett-Layne from his administration in wake of the article. 

On the same day that Adams announced Barrett-Layne as one of his picks for the city’s equivalent of a Board of Education, the administration indicated that it had asked for her dismissal.

In a letter sent to Barret-Layne on March 25, Adams claimed that her past published statements are “not compatible with a public education system that is open and welcoming to all New Yorkers, regardless of background or identity.” The letter stated that her removal would be effective on April 7. 

Adams’ spokeswoman Amaris Cockfield told The New York Daily News via email that “We were unaware of these writings and we’ve asked her to resign.”

The city scrubbed Barrett-Layne’s name from the statement announcing new members of the Panel for Education Policy.

Barrett-Layne reacted to the development in an interview with The New York Times.

“I feel bullied. I believe that the city is being bullied,” she asserted. “I feel as though my character, my name, my church have been defamed with lies and that everything was taken out of context.”

Conservative Christian activists cited Barrett-Layne’s dismissal as another example of what they see as intolerance toward Christians with beliefs that correspond with biblical teachings about human sexuality.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying organization Family Research Council, wrote in an op-ed that by “[pulling] the plug on Barrett-Layne” and “withdrawing her name,” the Adams administration was “sending a chilling message that people of faith need not apply.”

“The controversy over a Christian with a Christian perspective should be another wake-up call to parents with children in government schools,” he added. “Don’t think that the iron grip LGBT activists have on public education is limited to big-city schools.”

Perkins maintained that “Barrett-Layne would have had direct input in the local curriculum” as a member of the city’s school panel.

“What does this say to Christian moms and dads in the area who have kids in the public schools? Simple: their views will not be tolerated,” Perkins wrote. 

Radio host and author Michael Brown, a messianic Jewish believer, noted in a blog post Tuesday that Adams had previously faced pushback from LGBT activists for hiring “three people with histories of homophobic views and statements” to his Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships. 

While Brown praised Adams for declining to fire his appointees under pressure, he lamented that Barrett-Layne’s previous comments on homosexuality were “too much for Adams and his team.”

“God forbid they should allow yet another Bible-believing Christian to darken the doors of their administration. This was a step too far,” he wrote.

Brown concluded by declaring Adams’ actions as “anti-Christian discrimination” that “must be confronted head on, without compromise or capitulation.”

Adams, a Democrat first elected to office last November, has worked to establish himself as an ally of the LGBT community.

After Florida passed a bill banning school officials from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with kindergarten through third-grade students, Adams issued a statement condemning the legislation as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”

“The extremist culture war targeting our LGBTQ+ community is hateful and harmful. Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is the latest shameful measure,” he said. “We’re the city of Stonewall. We fight for our LGBTQ+ neighbors, especially our children.”

Adams informed “families leaving in fear of this state-sponsored discrimination” that they were “welcome in New York City.” He described the “arms and hearts” of the city as “wide open, embracing every child of every identity.”

Barrett-Layne’s removal comes after then-mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta fired Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran in 2015 over objections to a men’s devotional he wrote for his church that he also distributed at work. The book highlighted Cochran’s views on sexual morality. Reed claimed that Cochran had violated city policy by promoting the book while on the job.

But in 2018, after Cochran filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination, the city agreed to pay $1.2 million as part of a legal settlement in the case. 

“Given my history and work throughout my career and with the city of Atlanta, I was shocked that writing a book and encouraging Christian men to be the husbands and fathers and men that God had called us to be, would jeopardize my 34-year career,” Cochran said in a statement. 

The Christian Post reached out to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group that represented Cochran, for comment on Barrett-Layne’s case. ADF wasn’t able to issue a public statement on the matter. 

ADF has maintained, however, that the “government can’t force its employees to get its permission before they engage in free speech.”

“It also can’t fire them for exercising that First Amendment freedom, causing them to lose both their freedom and their livelihoods,” ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said in a 2018 statement.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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