Des Moines Register: Trump administration pressure over 4-H LGBT policy led to state leader’s ousting
November 20, 20180471
administration helped push the national 4-H club to remove a contentious
LGBT-friendly policy, setting off a battle that eventually led to the firing
earlier this year of the top 4-H leader in Iowa, according to a Des Moines Register investigation published Sunday.
investigation details the creation and eventual removal of the policy, which
sought to “ensure LGBT members felt protected by their local 4-H
program,” by asking the organization to “treat all students
consistent with their gender identity and allow them ‘equal access,'”
according to the paper. It also details the role of Heidi Green, the former
chief of staff for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in requesting the
policy be rescinded within several days of its publication, the paper said.
the paper, “several states posted the policy on their websites, including
Iowa,” as “part of a larger effort to modernize the federally
authorized youth group and broaden membership.”
after outcry from conservative and evangelical groups, at the direction of
Green, a communications manager at the National Institute of Food and
Agriculture “sent an ‘urgent’ email to at least two states — Iowa and New
York — urging the 4-H organizations there to remove the LGBT policy from their
websites,” the Register found in the course of their investigation, which
included interviews and more than 500 pages of state and federal
program is a youth organization with 6 million members and is administered by
the National Institute of Food and Agriculture which is part of the Department
and other Agriculture Department officials declined to answer questions about
the incident, according to the paper.
statement, Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, told
CNN that the document was developed by a regional 4-H group and “did not
set national 4-H policy and should never have been disseminated.” He added
that “decisions on such topics rightly belong at the local level.”
to take down the policy, the paper said, “set off a firestorm this spring
for 4-H programs in at least eight states” — including Iowa.
The call for
the 4-H policy’s removal “eventually precipitated” the ousting of
Iowa 4-H director John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas, whom the paper describes as
being “a fierce advocate of the LGBT policy,” because of his
resistance to the policy’s removal, the paper said.
which Chaisson-Cárdenas said was “making a difference,” was
publicized by his state’s chapter of the organization in March. Shortly
thereafter, complaints about the policy flooded in, according to the paper.
Lawrence, the vice president of Iowa State University’s Extension and Outreach,
which oversees Iowa’s 4-H program, alleged that the process for creating policy
wasn’t followed, according to the paper — an allegation that Chaisson-Cárdenas
not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
resisted the call to take down the document. According to documents obtained by
the Register, he wrote in an email to his superiors — referencing
WorldNetDaily, an alt-right online publication, “I guess I am not sure why
we are valuing the propaganda machine of a recognized hate group over the
existing rights of LGBTQ youth?”
said he was given the opportunity to resign at the May 10 discipline meeting or
‘next steps would be taken,'” the paper reported, adding that he was
finally terminated in August.
Chaisson-Cárdenas’ removal, Iowa State said in a statement that, among other
things, the 4-H leader had a “tendency to focus on individual tactical
projects while neglecting the overall strategic direction of the Iowa 4-H
program” and had a “pattern of poor decision-making and
judgment,” the paper said.
the paper said, maintained that he had “an obligation to resist efforts to
retract the transgender guidance and to fight xenophobia in 4-H’s ranks.”
Chaisson-Cárdenas did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
paying a very heavy price for doing it, and I don’t regret it for a single
second,” Chaisson-Cárdenas told the paper.