Written by Joshua Pratt, VFAF Political Director
Lynchburg, VA . – A fight for free speech and religious freedom vs cancel culture and woke government hypocrisy is well underway in Lynchburg, VA. The fight is due to cartoons posted on Facebook by a Lynchburg City Fire Captain and the City of Lynchburg seeking to cancel the Fire Captain at the promptings of a gay pride organization.
On January 26th 2021, Lynchburg City Fire Department Captain Marty Misjuns posted on his ‘personal’ Facebook page a series of cartoons critical of transgender persons using women’s public restrooms and locker rooms. Misjuns has stated the cartoons “are an expression of an opinion on a matter of public concern.”
Captain Misjuns is a 13-year veteran of the Lynchburg Fire Department. He is a self-proclaimed Christian who holds a deeply held religious belief that God created humankind male and female, that there are two sexes and that “gender is an unchangeable characteristic regardless of an individual’s wishes.” Misjuns concerns stem from H.R. 5, the so-called “Equality Act” that would legalize biological males allowed in womens’ and girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms and competition in female sports.
In response to the cartoons Hill City Pride, a LGBTQ+ organization, posted on their Facebook page, “It has come to our attention that one of LYH’s (Lynchburg) Fire Captain, Martin “Marty” Misjuns, has posted transphobic images on his “public figure” Facebook page. Please know that Hill City Pride takes this VERY seriously.” Michael Kittinger, the Board Chair of Hill City Pride sent a personal email to Lynchburg City Mayor Mary Jane Dolan requesting “a meeting” and “disciplinary action” against Misjuns.
In emails obtained by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Mayor Dolan affirmed Hill City Pride’s request for disciplinary action stating, “I was speechless when I saw what Mr. Misjuns posted. I am totally in agreement with you and do not support or will not tolerate this type of malicious rhetoric. No question his comments are unconscionable and City Leadership needs to take action. I have asked City Leadership to address these actions.” Mayor Dolan granted the requests of Kittinger and Hill City Pride got their meeting with Lynchburg City leadership.
The meeting was held in a forum closed to the public, only members of Hill City Pride, a few members of Lynchburg City Government, and REUFGE, a BIPOC and LGBTQIA advocacy group “that seeks to influence school board policy, training for local law enforcement, and nonprofit organizations” were in attendance.
WFXR News reported “A representative with Hill City Pride said the meeting included Interim City Manager Reid Wodicka, Fire Chief Greg Wormser, Mayor MaryJane Dolan, and Vice Mayor Beau Wright.” Interviews with other Lynchburg City Council members reveal that no other council members were invited to attend the meeting. Mayor Dolan told WFXR News “that if more Council members had been present, the meeting would have had to have been public.”
Several weeks following the clandestine meeting, on March 15th, Interim City Manager Wodicka released an official City of Lynchburg public statement. Hill City Pride responded on Facebook with “We are very grateful to Dr. Reid Wodicka, Interim City Manager, for finally releasing a statement on behalf of the City of Lynchburg in regards to the continued transphobic social media posts… While we appreciate the City’s new focus on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), and commitment to staff training… We have yet to hear about any disciplinary action on behalf of the City or the Lynchburg Fire Department.”
In a Press Release dated March 31, 2021, Lynchburg law firm Fairchild & Yoder announced the filing of a complaint in Lynchburg Circuit Court on behalf of Misjuns against the City of Lynchburg, the Lynchburg Fire Department, and high-ranking City officials.
The lawsuit alleges that City officials, including Mayor Mary Jane Dolan, Vice-Mayor Beau Wright, and City Manager Reid Wodicka, the Defendants,conspired to subject him (Misjuns) to adverse employment actions because of political and religious speech engaged in by Plaintiff, in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 12 of the Constitution of Virginia and that on Monday, March 29, Fire Captain Gregory Wormser subjected Misjuns to an “interrogation” focused almost exclusively on Misjuns’ personal posts.
The suit seeks damages for breach of contract, for City officials’ retaliation against Misjuns for exercising his right to free speech and to free exercise of his religious beliefs, conspiracy by Mayor Mary Dolan, Vice Mayor Beau Wright, and Interim Reid Wodicka, to deny Misjuns his constitutional rights, and denial of equal protection of the laws for punishing Misjuns for personal political speech.
In a phone interview with JD Fairchild, the lead attorney in the lawsuit, he stated, “We feel confident in our position and the lawsuit itself is to protect the private speech rights of the employees of the city.” The lawsuit also alleges that Wormser attended political rallies in uniform against City policy, with no adverse employment actions by the City in response.
When asked about Chief Worsmer’s participation in a political rally Fairchild replied, “It highlights the hypocrisy of the city’s position and it shows they are willing to retaliate against conservatives and their private lives yet maintain an authoritarian view of their own jobs and persons above the rest of us.”
The hypocrisy Fairchild is referring to within the City of Lynchburg leadership and the fire department is staggering, that all the while when the religious and free speech rights of Misjuns are being violated and his employment is in jeopardy of being cancelled, no actions have been brought against the Fire Chief Greg Wormser for participating in a Black Lives Matter rally.
Chief Wormser was also contacted by telephone. When asked about his attendance at a Black Lives Matter rally he said, “I was there handing out masks and helping with safe social distancing.” A photo of Wormser has come to light showing the Chief in uniform kneeling during the BLM rally in Lynchburg with no masks in his hands and not social distanced. The Chief’s actions by attending a BLM rally in uniform are a political expression in sympathies with a political organization seeking ‘change’ yet is working towards the destruction of the American way of life through the use of Marxist ideological tactics, racial divide, hate and violence. In the interview Wormeser stated he was “Unaware that BLM was a political organization” nor that its founders are confessed Marxist.
Black Lives Matter was founded by self-proclaimed trained Marxists, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza. In an article published by The National Pulse, Cullors stated, “we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories.” According to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) BLM is Super PAC, a political organization that has contributed $750,000 to the political campaigns of Rafael Warnock and John Ossoff. Warnock and Ossoff were elected to US Senate from Georgia in highly contested races with questionable dark money and accusations of voter fraud.
Chief Wormer by participating in a political protest rally, is in violation Chapter 7 Section H. of the City of Lynchburg’s Workplace Expectations and Procedures, that prohibits city employees from engaging in political activity while in uniform. In the photo also performing the act of political expression next to the Fire Chief is the former Interim City Manager, Reid Wodicka. At the time of the BLM rally Wodicka was not the Interim City Manager. However, Wodicka was appointed as Interim City Manager following the rally, he too clearly having sympathies for the Black Lives Matter organization.
The embodiment of the hypocrisy of Lynchburg must be addressed and stopped. It is wrong to persecute a citizen for expressing his or her opinion on public matters based on their religious beliefs and/or political leanings. The hypocrisy that is the City of Lynchburg picks and chooses who to persecute and does not enforce the very policies designed to protect the community from religious and political harassment. The officers of the City of Lynchburg are in violation of their oaths of office and must be removed from those offices. Elections for City Council are in 2022, there will be 3 at large positions on the ballot. The current council is 5-2 liberal to conservative which explains the harassment of one and the acceptance of violation of law for the other.
The Misjuns’ lawsuit has been transferred to the United States District Court Virginia Western District.
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Joshua Pratt holds a BA in Political Science from Arizona State University and three Master’s Degrees, in religion, education, and leadership from Liberty Baptist Seminary in Lynchburg VA. Joshua is a conservative community organizer and he currently serves as the Lynchburg Republican City Committee GOTV Director and as the Political Director for Virginians for America First (VFAF). He can be reached at JoshPratt@live.com