Can Teacher’s Religious Beliefs Trump a District’s Pronoun Policy?
On June 30, 2023, we summarized the Supreme Court’s decision in Groff v. DeJoy, which expanded employers’ duties to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs. We may soon find out whether Groff insulates school district employees with sincere religious objections from complying with policies requiring them to address students by their preferred names and pronouns. Or, put differently, whether a school district can fire or otherwise discipline such a teacher who refuses to follow such a policy.
Prior to Groff, the Seventh Circuit upheld a school district decision to fire a teacher who refused to follow such a policy on religious grounds and who, instead, called his students by their last names. Kluge v. Brownsburg Comm Sch Corp, 64 F4th 861 (CA 7 2023). After the Supreme Court decided Groff, the teacher filed a petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc. The Seventh Circuit, while denying the teacher’s petition, vacated its decision and remanded the case to the district court to apply Groff to the teacher’s claim. Kluge v. Brownsburg Comm Sch, 2023 WL 4842324 (July 28, 2023).