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Indiana music teacher's religious freedom case heads back to district court

Monday, Jul 31, 2023

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit’s decision Friday to vacate its opinion against the religious accommodation of Indiana high school music teacher John Kluge in Kluge v. Brownsburg Community School Corporation and send the case back to district court to be reconsidered in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Groff v. DeJoy:

“Federal law protects employees’ ability to live and work according to their religious beliefs. Yet the Brownsburg school district ignored the law, deciding Mr. Kluge’s religious views couldn’t be tolerated, revoked his religious accommodation based on the grumblings of a few, and forced him to resign on pain of termination. The school district’s decision violates Title VII, a federal law prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of religion. As the Supreme Court recently affirmed in Groff, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious practice unless doing so imposes undue hardships on their overall operations. The 7th Circuit has now sent Mr. Kluge’s case back so the district court can fix its previous mistakes and apply Groff to uphold Mr. Kluge’s constitutionally protected religious freedom.”

ADF attorneys represent Kluge, who taught at Brownsburg High School for four years. When the school district mandated that teachers call students by whatever pronouns and names they chose, Kluge requested a religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to call all his students by their last names—like a coach—instead of referring to female students with male names and pronouns and vice versa. The school district granted Kluge’s request based on his religious beliefs, and he successfully continued teaching under the religious accommodation for an entire school year. But in response to the grumblings of a few students and faculty, the school district revoked the religious accommodation and forced Kluge to resign, ending his teaching career.

Michael Cork, one of more than 4,700 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as local counsel on behalf of Kluge.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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