A Texas woman who volunteered to help Hurricane Harvey victims says she was “fired” by the church organising the relief effort after they discovered she was lesbian and Jewish.
Carmen Hix said she heard that the Calvary Houston non-denominational church in the city of Friendswood, near Houston, in Texas was looking for volunteers to help run its food bank so she took a week off work and donated $500– (£370)–worth of food.
She said she had volunteered for the church for three days when another volunteer started asking questions about her personal life, and she told them that she was Jewish and had raised two children with her partner Christina Fiddmont-Norfleet.
Then on Friday, the 64-year-old Navy veteran was asked to speak to Pastor Ron Hindt and a volunteer supervisor in private.
She told OutSmart magazine that she thought she would be asked to do more volunteering in future, but instead she was asked why she said “Shalom” at the end of their morning prayers.
The group all came together to pray before they started working each morning but she simply bowed her head in respect and said the salutation which means “peace be with you” in Hebrew.
When she explained this to the pastor he reportedly said she could no longer help at the church because she did not share its beliefs.
She said: “I asked, ‘So if I were a liar with an evil heart, and I told you what you want to hear, that I am a Christian, I would be allowed to continue to contribute to those less fortunate than I?’ I was told, ‘Yes”.
She said she later called Pastor Hindt for a further explanation and he invited her back to the church to speak in person.
When she got there he said that she was also sent away because there were rumours she was a lesbian, reportedly saying “We can't let you represent our church, as being a lesbian is a sin”.
He then reportedly invited her and her partner to come to the Sunday service at the church.
Pastor Hindt later posted an apology on the church’s Facebook page which has since been deleted.
It said: “Recently, a resident of the community volunteered to serve with us and we wholeheartedly accepted her assistance.
“Unfortunately, we’re saddened by an incident involving some miscommunication that took place off campus in an exchange between various community volunteers at the church’s food pantry.
“I met with the individual who was upset and apologised for the misunderstanding. (I apologise once again if you are reading this.) I invited her and her partner to sit with my wife and I in church this Sunday.”
The Independent has contacted Calvary Houston for comment.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies