ATLANTA (WXIA) -- Nick Johns is a gifted musician. As a cradle Catholic whowas the son of a deacon and an altar boy himself, Johns grew up with alove for the organ that was so strong, he pursued a degree in it atGeorgia State University.
"It's very lifting for me and very spiritual for me," Johns says.
For all those years, because of his faith, Johns says he denied whohe really was -- a gay man. "When you grow up Catholic, there's alwaysthat teaching being gay is wrong and not natural. It's the devil workinginside of you."
Two years ago when he was 25, Johns came out. Last October he washired as an organist at St. Brigid in Johns Creek, a church with closeto 5,000 families.
Shortly after he was hired Johns says a parishioner went to the head pastor, Monsignor David Talley.
"They printed out something that was on my Facebook wall. They werepictures, I support marriage equality or something like that."
Johns' Facebook wall has posts supporting gay marriage and photos ofhe and his fiance. Johns says Monsignor Talley spoke to him and that hewas compassionate. "He asked me to be cautious around here and make myprofile private."
Johns made his profile private. He says he loved his job and thatMonsignor Talley sang his praises from the pulpit, saying in one sermonhow he loved to listen to Johns rehearse when the church was empty.
Then Pope Benedict named Talley Atlanta's Auxiliary Bishop. In apress conference held at the archdiocese Talley says, "I will hope togive my whole heart, all that I am, to this new way of caring for theLord's flock."
Johns says, "We were all so excited. We were so proud of him. He was doing wonderful things there."
Johns says just weeks after Talley left St. Brigid, Father JoshuaAllen, another priest at the church who served under Talley, called him."And he said 'I hate to do this over the phone but you're undersuspension facing possible termination due to your Facebook accountbeing in moral dissension with the teachings of the Catholic church.'"
In a letter Johns received from St. Brigid, Father Allen writes thatdisciplinary action 'could include termination.' Johns says one weeklater Allen gave him the option of termination or resignation. Johnssays he chose resignation.
In a video of Father Allen on Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasterswebsite, he discusses the Supreme Court's ruling on same sex marriage,saying "Homosexual activity is just another sin. It's not like we have aproblem with this one over another one. And the church is never goingto stand by idly as society tries to turn it into something that is not asin."
The Atlanta Chapter of the American Guild of Organists wrote to St.Brigid and asked for mediation. It has yet to happen. The Guild filed acomplaint against the church and writes in a letter that 'No Guildmember can seek employment there until the matter is resolved.' Guildleaders also wrote that members 'should be treated with dignityregardless of their beliefs and stances on social issues."
The Catholic church has every right to fire Nick Johns, or to forcehis resignation. Employee handbooks for dioceses across the countrystate that church employees must reflect the teachings of the church.The Atlanta Archdiocese would not speak for the story except to saythey do not comment on current or former employees.
Off camera, twopriests with the archdiocese say Nick Johns' story is well known andcause for concern, especially in light of Pope Francis who said monthsago when asked about homosexuals, "Who am I to judge?" And last week inan interview said that 'Religion does not have the right to interferespiritually in the lives of gays and lesbians.'
Johns is the interim organist at Rock Spring Presbyterian Church. They know his story. They know he is gay and they welcomed him. "I'venever felt more welcome than I have here," Johns said.
Being Catholic is a big part of who Johns is, but he is questioningwhether he will ever return to the only faith he's ever known. "TheCatholic church was my home for my whole life. And this is them tellingme that I'm not wanted."