Des Moines Register: Trump administration pressure over 4-H LGBT policy led to state leader's ousting

The Trump administration helped push the national 4-H club to remove a contentious LGBT-friendly policy, set...

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 5:42 AM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 5:42 AM

The Trump 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.

The 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role of Heidi Green, the former chief of staff for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in requesting the policy be rescinded within several days of its publication, the paper said.

Agriculture departments

Continents and regions

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government departments and authorities

Iowa

Midwestern United States

North America

The Americas

United States

Demographic groups

Des Moines

Gays and lesbians

Politics

Population and demographics

Sex and gender issues

Society

US federal government

White House

According to 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."

Days later 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 communications.

The 4-H 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 of Agriculture.

Both Green and other Agriculture Department officials declined to answer questions about the incident, according to the paper.

In a 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."

The decision 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.

The policy, 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.

John 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 denied.

Lawrence did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

Chaisson-Cardenas 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?"

"Chaisson-Cárdenas 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.

In explaining 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.

Chaisson-Cárdenas, 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.

"I'm paying a very heavy price for doing it, and I don't regret it for a single second," Chaisson-Cárdenas told the paper.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 13260

Reported Deaths: 625
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds89324
Lauderdale67855
Madison65421
Scott58910
Neshoba51231
Forrest48034
Jones46713
DeSoto4616
Leake38410
Holmes36523
Rankin3496
Jackson29613
Copiah2784
Attala27014
Lincoln24320
Monroe24224
Leflore24025
Harrison2346
Newton2243
Lamar2194
Yazoo2152
Pearl River20327
Pike19611
Adams18615
Lowndes1607
Noxubee1586
Washington1535
Warren1506
Bolivar14010
Jasper1393
Oktibbeha13410
Smith13110
Covington1271
Chickasaw12612
Clarke12616
Kemper12510
Lafayette1233
Carroll11310
Wayne1090
Marion1088
Lee1045
Clay993
Winston981
Coahoma983
Lawrence901
Hancock8711
Simpson850
Itawamba857
Yalobusha824
Wilkinson829
Montgomery781
Sunflower773
Grenada752
Jefferson Davis712
Union715
Tippah7011
Marshall693
Panola622
Calhoun604
Tate591
Claiborne581
Humphreys537
Amite521
Walthall510
Tunica483
Perry462
Jefferson400
Prentiss383
Stone300
Choctaw292
Webster271
Pontotoc263
Franklin252
Tishomingo250
Quitman240
Tallahatchie241
George191
Alcorn151
Benton140
Greene71
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 14478

Reported Deaths: 551
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile1996109
Jefferson161488
Montgomery118630
Marshall6499
Tuscaloosa50512
Lee49832
Franklin4476
Shelby43319
Tallapoosa39662
Butler34411
Chambers33623
Madison2964
Baldwin2749
Elmore2637
Etowah23610
DeKalb2213
Coffee2001
Walker1981
Dallas1973
Sumter1916
Lowndes18610
Houston1644
Morgan1621
Autauga1593
Calhoun1413
Choctaw1414
Pike1360
Colbert1362
Marengo1336
Hale1293
Russell1280
Lauderdale1282
Randolph1257
Wilcox1187
Marion11310
Bullock1111
Barbour1101
Clarke1022
St. Clair1021
Pickens934
Talladega912
Greene894
Chilton871
Dale830
Cullman760
Limestone740
Jackson692
Covington651
Washington645
Winston620
Macon602
Bibb591
Crenshaw582
Henry562
Blount491
Escambia433
Lawrence420
Coosa331
Geneva330
Cherokee332
Perry310
Monroe282
Clay272
Conecuh251
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 73°
Columbus
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 73°
Oxford
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
Starkville
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather