Allegations: Gay Man Forced Out of Christian Theater and His Departure Papered Over With 'Beautiful Lie'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday July 27, 2021

A gay man alleges he was forced out of his job at a Christian theater organization — and then his departure was swept under the rug with a "beautiful lie" that avoided the real reason, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Andrew Mahan had worked for the Rockford, Illinois, branch of Chicago's Christian Youth Theater for 12 years when he was told in 2018 that he would have to leave the organization of his own accord or be fired. The reason: A parent of one of CYT Rockford's students spotted his picture on a poster for a drag show and complained.

"One of the board members spoke to me and she said, 'You know we are a Christian company and you know our standpoint on homosexuality, and the board is moving for your removal,'" Mahan told the press. "I decided to bow out quietly."

CYT offers training for aspiring young theater artists ages 5-18, according to its website, with classes each week for 10-week terms. Among the classes offered include drama, voice, dance, and specialty classes that vary per session.

The site goes on to say that CYT is "claiming the arts for Christ" and declares that the organization "stands in the forefront in its commitment to the highest ethical, moral, technical, and artistic standards of excellence."

But the story offered by the organization to its staff as to why Mahan was leaving — new employment in Chicago — had nothing to do with the real reasons, he claims.

"They crafted a very beautiful lie as to why I was leaving the company," Mahan told the media. "None of the staff that I've worked with closely for years who knew the actual reason spoke up — it was completely swept under the rug."

Even then, Mahan held his peace. Now, he's decided to come forward with his story because of new language in CYT contracts that speaks of "traditional beliefs of God, the Bible, sexuality, marriage, human identity and gender," and requires that "speech and behavior of students, parents and staff must comply with a biblical standard."

That compelled Mahan to share his story on Facebook and to speak out. Mahan recounted how he had read the company's new contract, noting that "the statement that they ended the contract with was, 'In his Sufficient Grace.'

"I found it humorous and offensive that they would end a contract that is pretty blatantly unaccepting and a bit hateful toward groups and individuals," Mahan added of the phrase.

Even though he recalled CYT once being less doctrinaire, Mahan said "there was an unspoken, unsettling tone when I started working there as an openly gay male." He said he felt a need for caution around his true identity "because not all Christian and religious people are comfortable with the idea of homosexuality."

What's more, Mahan recalled that when students or staff came out as LGBTQ, "there was always that assumption of predatory behavior" that staff at the organization would have.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Mahan now runs his own theater company, Gateway Arts, in Rockford, together with his mother, who is also a former CYT employee.

Mahan said his company is "going strong," and told the press: "After we both left, a lot of students left CYT and actually joined our theater company just because they didn't feel accepted."

The mission statement of Mahan's company? "At Gateway, we see you. And we meet you where you are."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.