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Sidetrack Bar Sued By Conservative Christian Ex-Employee

By Serena Dai | June 4, 2013 9:58am
  Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., is a prominent Boystown bar. It is being sued by a conservative Christian ex-employee for harassment.
Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., is a prominent Boystown bar. It is being sued by a conservative Christian ex-employee for harassment.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

BOYSTOWN — It's been nearly two years since a prominent Boystown gay bar fired a doorman who accused management of sexual and religious harassment, but the fight continues in court.

Joseph Parker, a former doorman at the bar, filed a lawsuit in September against Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., accusing the bar of violating his civil rights through sexual and religious harassment and instigating mental health issues, according to court documents.

Sidetrack is a Boystown mainstay owned by Art Johnston, a well-known gay rights activist who founded Equality Illinois, a gay marriage advocacy group. Sidetrack lawyers denied all allegations.

Parker said in the complaint his problems started shortly after he began working as a doorman at Sidetrack in August 2010 — around the time he began dating Kevin DuJan, a self-declared gay conservative Christian and the founder of HillBuzz.org, a right-wing blog critical of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama and the gay community's "bad behavior."

Parker alleged that Sidetrack employees demanded he "abandon any pretense of holding conservative or Christian beliefs." He also claimed Sidetrack displayed videos showing violence against Christians, demanded that he end his relationship with DuJan or be fired and "heckled" Parker by calling him "a crazy Christian conservative" and egging on customers to harass him, the complaint said.

When he told a supervisor about heckling by employees and customers, the complaint claims, the supervisor said Parker was "paranoid" and later walked by singing "You're delusional, you're delusional, quit wasting my time" to Parker.

Sidetrack lawyers admitted in a response to the complaint that the supervisor sometimes sang those lyrics — similar to the Mariah Carey song "Obsessed," — but denied that it was directed at Parker or any of the other allegations of religious harassment.

Parker was fired in August 2011 after an internal investigation found that his initial complaints to management were "materially false" and had "material omissions, that appear designed to create claims that do not exist," according to court documents. 

Now, Parker is suing for compensation for emotional distress, past and future medical expenses related to depression and anxiety and the cost of the lawsuit. The case had its most recent hearing in district court last week.

Parker alleged that throughout his employment, employee William Stadt would invite him home for "sex, bondage, sadism [sic] and torture, in a room Stadt called his 'Playroom'" and would grab his butt in front of customers, in one instance making "lewd grunting noises," the complaint reads.

The complaint also alleges that the supervisor "supplied Parker with multiple free shots of alcohol" and then "pressured a greatly intoxicated Parker into engaging in unwelcome sex."

None of the claims were true, Sidetrack lawyer Scott Gilbert said, adding that the bar provided a "welcoming" work environment for all people.

"Sidetrack has a long and proud history of speaking to equality in Illinois," Gilbert said. "It remains proud of the inclusive, welcoming atmosphere for which it has been known for in the community."

Gilbert suspects that DuJan is behind the lawsuit. 

DuJan has a long history of criticizing Johnston and the Boystown gay community on his blog, and has called local LGBT leaders the "Gaystapo," accusing them of attacking Christians as "goon squads for the [political] Left."

DuJan has also claimed that he was denied entry to the bar for being a known conservative Christian, but the bar said that wasn't true. Parker, who is now looking for a job as an architect, is still in a relationship with DuJan, his attorney Stephen Boulton said.

Boulton said the situation was a "classic case of a pretty young person being hired by an older manager with the intent of getting the young person in bed."

He also said the city's gay community is anti-Christian and has "a dark side" that is now coming to light from the lawsuit, he said. 

"He is a victim of a culture that believes that rules don't apply to them," Boulton said, "and they do."