Call to Action: Iowa 4-H director fired after gay, transgender inclusion policy inflames conservative groups

By  Jeremy Michaels, 3rd Generation 4-H’r from Dallas County, Iowa

As reported in the USA Today, the Des Moines Register and several other news outlets — John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas the nationally recognized Iowa 4-H Director and the first Latinx to serve in that post (In any state) in over 120 years was fired last week.  His offence was working to include youth of color, immigrants and LGBTQ Youth.    His termination comes shortly after he suggested a 4-H LGBT inclusion policy, which drew rebukes from conservative groups and resulted in hundreds of complaints submitted to Iowa 4-H.

(USA Today Article Link

After the inclusion proposal in mid-April, the Liberty Counsel, a law and policy firm that promotes “Christian” values and Word Daily News (both groups listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center Hate  Watch) targeted Chaisson-Cardenas by name which sent thousands of racially charged and homophobic communications to Iowa State University’s leadership. 

In the termination letter by John Lawrence, Chaisson-Cárdenas’ boss and Iowa State University’s vice president of extension and outreach, wrote that he “decided to make a change in the leadership of the 4-H Youth Development Program.”  “Your letter of intent states that your position serves at the pleasure of the administration,” Lawrence wrote. “At this time, I have decided to exercise that provision and terminate your employment … effective immediately.”

John-Paul’s was quoted by the Des Moines Register as saying “Through my life and through my career I have always tried to foster inclusive environments that welcome diversity for all youth and all people, that’s what I believe my career was built upon.” 

It feels important to mention that John-Paul has the 2017 winner of the for “Powerful Partnerships within Iowa State Extension and Outreach” Award and his inclusion work was featured in Iowa State University’s winning nomination of the National Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities 2018 Award.


What Can you do:

1.       Stay Informed by liking and or following the 4-H for Inclusion Facebook Page

2.      Write or call the Iowa State University president.

3.      Writing Iowa State Lawmakers and making your voice heard