BURLINGAME, Calif. - The first openly transgender Lutheran bishop from San Francisco is suing the church alleging harassment, defamation and whistleblowing retaliation.
Megan Rohrer said he was defamed, misgendered and forced out of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"It’s been really baffling to me the level of explicit transphobia I’ve experienced in my journey as bishop," he said. "It’s painful."
Rohrer was celebrated as the first elected transgender bishop in the church in 2021, a role he only held for about a year. He resigned amid allegations of racism following the firing of a lower-ranking reverend.
It's alleged the church directed Rohrer to terminate that reverend following an investigation but allowed falsehoods to spread.
"The church easily could have corrected the record," he said. "Instead they put forth misinformation on purpose."
Rohrer fired back by filing a lawsuit on Thursday in U.S. District Court -- Northern District of California claiming a hostile work environment and harassment and infliction of emotional distress. He said he was regularly put down and discriminated against by both clergy and congregants.
"When it happens in your church community…it hurts in an extra special way," Rohrer said.
He received constant violent threats, was subjected to a concerted hate campaign that called him a racist, and was repeatedly or intentionally misgendered 44 separate times, according to the lawsuit.
The Sierra Pacific Synod of the church, which covers congregations in Northern California and parts of Nevada, did not respond to KTVU’s request for comment.
Rhorer’s lawyer said church leadership resisted and ridiculed him filing the harassment claim on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
"It is outrageous that in this day and age someone as incredible and devoted as Rev. Rohrer would be treated as egregiously as the church has treated him," Tamarah Prevost, attorney with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP said. "Our hope is that a message is sent to the church that this conduct is unacceptable."
Rohrer told KTVU he is pushing for change in a church that claims it welcomes and respects all people. He hopes to repair his reputation while sending a message of inclusion.
"I have a very strong faith still," Rohrer said. "But my faith in the church isn’t as strong."