A teacher who refused to call trans students by their preferred names because of his Christian beliefs can't have his job back, says court
- A US court has ruled that a high school did not violate the First Amendment rights of a music teacher.
- John Kluge refused on religious grounds to use transgender students' preferred names.
A US court has ruled that an Indiana high school did not violate anti-discrimination laws after refusing to hire back a teacher who quit because he refused to call transgender students by their chosen names, the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has filed.
John Kluge, a former music teacher at Brownsburg High School, refused to use the student's preferred name and pronouns, citing his Christian religious beliefs, according to a civil complaint filed in 2019. This complaint said that Kluge "believes encouraging students to present themselves as the opposite sex by calling them an opposite-sex first name is sinful."
According to the court documents, the school, located in the suburbs of Indianapolis, initially allowed Kluge to refer to students by their last names, but his "last-names-only practice stigmatized the transgender students and caused them demonstrable emotional harm," Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner wrote.
Students and fellow teachers complained, and the decision was reversed, according to court filings.
Kluge's refusal to accommodate the students eventually led to his resignation after the school told him his employment was being terminated, Reuters reported. At that point, Kluge attempted to sue the school board for violating his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
He was seeking his job back and unspecified damages, Reuters said.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group, took up Kluge's case, Reuters said.
Federal law states that employers should only accommodate workers' religious beliefs if it would not cause an undue hardship on the school's conduct, and Rovner upheld the court's ruling that, "Kluge's refusal to follow those policies created an undue hardship on Brownsburg's mission of educating all of its students."
Writing a dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Michael Brennan said that it was not clear whether the school was able to mitigate any disruptions that arose as a result of Kluge's beliefs and conduct, and that a jury should determine whether the school violated his rights.
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