Salt Lake City Policy Department: Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City Police Officer Eric Moutsos did not anticipate that his faith would cost him his job. But in the summer of 2014, the long-time policeman asked for a different post at the city's gay pride event. He had been directed, along with other members of the team, to lead the motorcycle brigade at the front of the parade. Moutsos indicated that he "felt uncomfortable doing what he considered celebratory circles with other motorcycles leading the parade because of his religious views" and asked to be placed somewhere else at the event.
He said, "It is unquestionably my duty as a police officer to protect everyone's right to hold a parade or other event, but is it also my duty to celebrate everyone's parade?" For that particular assignment, he explained, "It looks like we and I are in support of this parade. I said I would feel the same way if this was an abortion parade. I would feel the same way if it was a marijuana parade."
Not once did he refuse to work the parade—yet in the middle of working out a compromise with his boss, Moutsos was suspended. The move blind-sided him and the dad of four went home and told his family what happened. Soon after, the story broke that an unidentified member of the Salt Lake Police Department had been put on a leave of absence for "discrimination."
Chief Chris Burbank spun the controversy as a story of prejudice and bias. "It has nothing to do with religious freedom—that has to do with the hatred of those individuals and what the parade stands for, which is about unity and coming together," he told local reporters. After six months of turmoil, Moutsos decided to come forward and reveal his identity. As a Mormon—whose church had recently thrown its support behind the very ordinances that made this kind of persecution possible—Moutsos wanted to turn his oppression into an opportunity.
In an interview with Deseret News, Moutsos said his story should be a warning to every American who thinks court-created same-sex marriage and homosexuality won't affect them. "We can 100 percent disagree and still 100 percent love. I hate that we're labeled in this way that is so divisive." Moutsos now works as Manager of Development for the Sutherland Institute, a pro-family public policy think tank in Utah.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Eric Moutsos
Radio interview with Eric Moutsos: