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Teacher Claims It’s ‘Against His Religion’ To Identify Transgender Students By Their Preferred Name And Gender

When you decide to become a teacher, you’re entering a world where your own personal preferences and beliefs often times need to take a backseat in the classroom.
In today’s day and age, where society has become more progressive than in past years, teachers are often times trained in seminars that focus on acceptance, diversity, and identity struggles amongst students–which include those students who are part of the LGBTQ community. Professional development seminars focused on dignity for all students are now required to obtain a teaching certification in many states across America. However, one Indiana teacher has decided he wants to forgo all of the conversations on acceptance and flip the bird to the rules.

Indiana high school orchestra teacher John Kluge, who was previously employed at Brownsburg High School, told IndyStar.com that he “refuses” to call his transgender or non-binary students by their preferred name, nor recognize them as their preferred gender. Many students who identify as transgender do not have the resources to change their name legally as teenagers, and, instead, they will ask teachers and other school professions to call them by a “preferred name.” However, Kluge states that by doing this, he is going against his own religious beliefs. He also stated that forcing him to identify the students as such is a violation of his First Amendment rights.

IndyStar

He told the publication:

I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that’s a dangerous lifestyle. I’m fine to teach students with other beliefs, but the fact that teachers are being compelled to speak a certain way is the scary thing.

In the past, Kluge found a loophole in the system by referring to his students by their last-names only–never having to face the issue of “preferred first-name changes.” However, after complaints, a school administrator stated that Kluge has to begin to honor his student’s preferences and honor their decision to change their name, identity, and/or gender.

After disagreements with the administration at his school, the district threatened to fire Kluge with only three weeks left of the school year. In retaliation, he submitted a “tentative letter of resignation.” However, he later asked to withdraw the letter, claiming he still wanted to work at the school–loving his students and his job.

But, Kluge told reporters that he was “locked out of the district’s email system,” and that the district had already posted a job opening online for a high school orchestra teacher.

They’re acting as if I have (resigned), even though I’m pleading, ‘no.’ I’m not dead yet. I still want to work here.

I really do care for all of my students, which is why I don’t want to be compelled to speak in such a way that I believe I’ll be encouraging them in something that’s dangerous.”

Several religious organizations in the area, who also protest same-sex marriage and abortion, have begun sending out petitions and emailing the district’s board members advocating to keep Kluge employed at the high school. However, LGBTQ activists and other members of the community have expressed that Kluge’s decision to ignore his student’s identity beliefs is not an issue of religious belief, but an issue of lack of respect for his students.

Many celebrities and influencers have spoken out recently about anti-LGBTQ movements linked to religion–including Seth MacFarlane, who spoke out against the Colorado baker who “refused to bake cakes for gay weddings.” After the Supreme Court issued this as a case of “religious freedom,” MacFarlane compared the situation to America when individuals would refuse to sit next to another person becasue they were black.

Kluge is now appealing the “termination” with the school district, claiming his exit from the school was “unjust” after teaching there for four years. He claimed it is a “religious freedom” of his to refrain from supporting his students and their identity decisions–even after the students have changed their name through the school administration.

Many people on Twitter are against Kluge on this debate, stating that it is a matter of respecting individuals identities.