Appeals Court Weakens Religious Accommodations for Teachers

Earlier this month, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals removed certain religious protections for teachers, making it possible for teachers to be fired for referring to students by their last names.

Just The News reports that the three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court determined on April 7th that the Brownsburg Community Schools Corp. in Indiana had a “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason” for firing John Kluge, a music teacher who caused “emotional harm” because he refused to refer to “transgender” students by their preferred names and pronouns.

On Friday, Kluge’s lawyers asked the court for an en banc hearing that would involve all 11 judges of the court, arguing that the ruling made “null and void” certain federal protections against employment discrimination. The court, his lawyers argued, should have waited for guidance from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) before handing down its ruling, which impacts the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

The 7th Circuit’s ruling is in direct contradiction with the neighboring 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has already made a ruling on the matter in a very similar case. Back in 2021, the 6th Circuit ruled that Shawnee State University, a public university, was not allowed to fire Christian professor Nicholas Meriweather when he also refused to refer to “transgender” students by their preferred pronouns. As a result, the school was forced to settle with Meriweather to the tune of approximately $400,000. The 6th Circuit’s ruling affects the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

In addition to the 6th Circuit, the Supreme Court is about to hear another case dealing with religious accommodations for workers, which could see the overturning of a decades-old precedent. The case involves a postal worker named Gerald Groff, who was fired for refusing to work on Sundays so that he could observe the Sabbath. His lawsuit has drawn support from many other religious groups and advocacy groups, as well as anti-vaccine mandate groups.

If the court rules in Groff’s favor, it would overturn a 1977 precedent known as “Hardiman,” in which employers are allowed to reject religious exemption requests under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which imposes a “more than a de minimis cost” on their business.

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About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

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