The Archdiocese of Atlanta has not responded to a request for comment today.
Johns came out in 2011, while he was working with another church, he said. When he was hired at Saint Brigid, he was determined to be open about his sexual orientation. But his openness may have cost him his job.
A meeting with the man who hired him, Monsignor David Talley, followed to discuss his personal Facebook page.
“We had a meeting to talk about it and he was saying he didn’t care that I was gay because one of his childhood best friends turned out to be gay and they’re still best friends. We were talking about making my profile private. I didn’t know it wasn’t private. I made it private and that was the end of it for a long time,” Johns told GA Voice.
Johns thought he was in the clear, but after Talley was promoted to bishop earlier this year, an interim pastor took over Saint Brigid: Father Joshua Allen, who Johns said held a much less favorable view of his homosexuality.
“I’ve heard some of his sermons before,” Johns said. “I had to bite my tongue. During the last election for Obama, he had a sermon about how you couldn’t be Catholic and vote for a pro-choice candidate. The church gave him a standing ovation.”
Earlier this month, Johns said he received a call from Father Allen, who informed him he was under suspension due to his Facebook profile being in public moral dissension with the teachings of the church.
“I came and got my keys,” he said. “They had a staff member following me around. None of the staff knew what was going on. I didn’t really know what was going on either.”
Another meeting followed, eight days after he was first informed of his suspension and following several attempts to communicate with the Atlanta Archdiocese human resources department.
Johns said he was provided with two options, resign or be terminated. He chose to resign.
“I’m trying to find another organist position and I figured it would be easier if I wasn’t fired from my previous job,” he said.
It didn’t hurt that the resignation came with severance, Johns said.
Johns was raised in the Catholic faith, but now considers himself agnostic.
“I’ve played in every denomination there is substituting for organists. They’re all after the same thing. I was failing to see the point in denominations at all. They way they treat people for being gay and whatnot,” he said.
Since Johns’ suspension, Saint Brigid has hired a fulltime replacement pastor, meaning the man who fired him is no longer in charge. But Johns doesn’t think he would go back, even under the new leadership. He said he understands that the Archdiocese of Atlanta was within its legal right to force him out, but the experience has tarnished his personal view of the Church.
“I don’t know because them being a religious institution they were well within their rights to do this. I don’t know that I would want to work there again after all of this. I don’t know that I want to work with any Catholic church after this,” he said.
Johns remains optimistic about his future.
“It might be a blessing in disguise,” Johns says. “I might find somewhere where I can be happy and be myself.”