(Headline USA) A federal appeals court rejected Friday the religious objections of, John Kluge, a Christian teacher who was forced to resign after refusing to comply with a leftist mandate forcing teachers to use transgender students’ names and preferred gender pronouns.
The decision from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a prior ruling in the case by a federal judge that equally rejected the First Amendment argument.
According to court records, Kluge was hired in 2014 as the music and orchestra teacher for Brownsburg High School about 20 miles northwest of Indianapolis. In 2017, district officials began mandating that high school teachers use the names and pronouns listed in the school’s database.
Kluge told the school’s principal, Bret Daghe, on the first day of classes for the 2017 school year that he had a religious objection to using transgender students’ names and pronouns. District officials agreed that Kluge could call students by their last names and would not be responsible for handing out orchestra clothing.
But at least two students, along with pro-transgender counselors, claimed that the religious accommodation made them feel uncomfortable.
In January, the district told teachers that everyone would be required to use the names and pronouns listed for students in the database. In response to Kluge questioning whether the rule would also apply to him, officials told him he must abide by it, resign or be fired.
Kluge was pushed to resign and then sued the school for discriminating against his religious beliefs.
An Indiana federal judge ruled that Kluge’s refusal to use transgender students’ names and pronouns created an undue hardship on the district, which is responsible for educating all of its students.
The appeals court agreed, writing that district officials tried to accommodate Kluge’s religious objection but realized that letting the music teacher use last names “resulted in students feeling disrespected.”
“Brownsburg has demonstrated as a matter of law that the requested accommodation worked an undue burden on the school’s educational mission by harming transgender students and negatively impacting the learning environment for transgender students, for other students in Kluge’s classes and in the school generally, and for faculty,” the opinion read.
Rory Gray, a renowned pro-free speech attorney with the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), is representing Kluge and said they are considering next steps.
“Congress passed Title VII to prevent employers from forcing workers to abandon their beliefs to keep their jobs,” Gray said in a statement. “In this case, Mr. Kluge went out of his way to accommodate his students and treat them all with respect. The school district even permitted this accommodation before unlawfully punishing Mr. Kluge for his religious beliefs.”
ADF Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursh called Kluge a “skillful” teacher with an “excellent reputation as a fun and caring teacher,” and slammed the pro-transgender teachers who plotted Kluge’s firing at the announcement of the lawsuit. “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.’”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press