A high school teacher who claims he was forced to resign because he declined to use the preferred pronouns and names of transgender students is alleging religious discrimination in a federal appeals court case.
John Kluge, a music teacher, was forced out at Brownsburg (Ind.) High School after he declined to follow a new district-wide policy mandating that teachers use the preferred gender names and pronouns of students, even though Kluge says he had reached a compromise with school administrators to only use the last names of students.
Kluge, who the suit calls a “man of deep Christian faith,” says the district violated his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which requires employers to “reasonably accommodate . . . an employee’s . . . religious observance or practice” unless it creates an “undue hardship.”
According to Kluge’s brief, he is only asking that his compromise accommodation – the usage of last names – be allowed. The compromise “would allow him to stay neutral on transgender issues and focus on teaching music,” the brief says.
Kluge lost at the district court but appealed to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing Kluge and filed the opening brief with the court Friday.
“The district considered that accommodation reasonable and granted it,” the brief says. “But after a handful of teachers and students grumbled about his religious accommodation, the district pressured Mr. Kluge to leave the school and – when he refused to do so willingly – revoked the accommodation, brooked no exceptions to its transgender-affirmation rules, and forced Mr. Kluge to resign or be terminated.
“The voices against tolerance and religious accommodation had won, even though no one in our society – in school or out – has a right to demand confirmation ‘of their beliefs or even their way of life,’” the brief says.
ADF alleges the district has created a “heckler’s veto” to religious liberty.
“If avoiding undue hardship means finding a religious accommodation to which no one will object, few – if any – accommodations will survive, and Congress’ nondiscrimination mandate will be eviscerated,” the brief says.
The brief calls Kluge a “deeply religious man who believes that following the district’s policy would require him to tell a dangerous lie to his students and would be perilous to his own soul.”
The case is Kluge v. Brownsburg Community School Corporation.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.