FRIENDSWOOD, Texas - A Friendswood woman volunteering at a local church in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey says she was turned away when they learned she was a Jewish lesbian.
"All I wanted to do was help those less fortunate than myself and not being able to do that because of my lifestyle and because I'm Jewish was just very hurtful," Carmen Hix told Channel 2 News.
Hix is a U.S. Navy veteran who served during Vietnam and retired after Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
She says sitting at home after Harvey hit was not an option.
"I took leave of absence -- I work part-time -- and decided just to do 10 days straight of volunteering," she said.
She volunteered at a food pantry run by Calvary Houston Church.
Every day there was a Christian prayer.
"At the end of the prayer I would say 'shalom' very quietly," Hix said.
"I was asked about that by the supervisor of the food bank, 'Why do you say shalom?' I said because I'm Jewish."
She says the next day fellow church volunteers were shocked as more details of her personal life came up in conversation.
"I've been with a wonderful woman for 20 years. We've raised two great children," she said.
She says the head of the food pantry then called her in for another conversation.
"The gentleman asked me, looked me in the eye, and says, 'Are you a Christian?' and I said, 'No, I identify as being Jewish,' and he said then you can no longer volunteer for Calvary," she recalled.
Hix then met with the church pastor and founder Ron Hindt.
"I told him I understand I'm being fired because I'm Jewish and I can no longer volunteer with your church. He said, No, it's also a rumor that you're a lesbian,'" she said.
In a Facebook post, the church apologized for what it called a misunderstanding.
"We would never do that," Hindt said.
"At no time did I ever say you couldn't serve here. I told her I have Jewish friends. I go to Israel all the time. ... There are people coming to the church who are gay and lesbian," the pastor said.
Hindt says he invited Hix and her partner to attend church services, an invitation she rejected.
"He said when God strikes your heart and brings to light the sinfulness of your ways you'll be able to walk away from that relationship and you'll be good with God," Hix said.
Hindt said it was not his place to judge and that he loves all people.
Hix found a new place to volunteer. She's now at a food pantry set up inside SSG Group, an Alvin manufacturing plant that chose to shut down operations so it could open its doors as an emergency relief center.
Volunteer groups at that food pantry include the Confederate Riders of America and American Freedom Keepers.
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