A certified athletic trainer who helped coach a girls softball team to a state title last year says she has been terminated from her position at a religious high school in Indianapolis because she is gay.
Krystal Brazel, an athletic trainer employed by Franciscan Health, has been working at Lutheran High School in Indianapolis for the past five years.
Franciscan partners with local schools to place trainers at them, and initially sent Brazel to Lutheran on a limited basis. But she eventually convinced them to place her at the school full time.
When she started as the athletic trainer, she was diagnosing injuries on a folding table in the hallway. She began collecting donations for, and eventually was successful in creating, a training room for all school athletes.
Four years ago, after a year on the job, she was asked to help coach the softball team, in addition to her training duties. In that role, she was considered an actual employee of Lutheran High School.
“I remember going to school thinking I don’t ever want to be a high school athletic trainer. That’s why I got my masters,” Brazel told Indianapolis ABC affiliate RTV6.
“Life happened. And I started at Lutheran just helping out and I realized this is really God’s calling for me is to have an impact on these people’s lives and maybe be their first real gay Christian that they had an interaction with.”
But Brazel says that in February, just before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, she was told she would no longer be allowed to work, coach, or volunteer at the school because of her sexual orientation, and the fact that she is engaged to be married to another woman on July 18.
She claims the athletic director and the head of school called her into a meeting and asked her to read a part of the school’s handbook stating that homosexuality is a sin.
Brazel then claims they asked her to sign a pledge that she would abide by the handbook’s guidelines. She declined, resulting in her termination as a softball coach.
“I think they really decided to make an example of me,” she said. “It breaks my heart. I know what I poured into that school.”
In June, Franciscan Health and Lutheran High School deadlocked on negotiations and were unable to reach an agreement that would have allowed her to continue as the athletic trainer at the school.
As a result, Brazel will be reassigned to New Augusta Public Academy, in Pike Township, Indiana.
Lutheran High School’s Head of School, Michael Brandt, released a statement defending the decision to terminate Brazel.
“Lutheran High School of Indianapolis is founded on the doctrine of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and expects employees who shepherd its students to respect and live consistently by these principles,” Brandt said.
“The school’s mission is to prepare young adults for a Christian life in a Christ-centered environment,” Brandt continued. “Lutheran High School of Indianapolis needs leaders of its students committed to these values.”
Franciscan Health issued its own statement confirming that Brazel is still employed by the organization.
“Franciscan Health athletic trainers are highly skilled and work under the direction of team physicians,” the statement read.
“Our trainers provide services such as pre-participation physical examinations, promoting the safe and appropriate practice and competition facilities, development of injury and illness prevention strategies, and education and consultations to student-athletes, coaches and parents
“Franciscan Health is an equal opportunity employer and complies with all federal civil rights laws applicable to it.
“Krystal Brazel is a certified athletic trainer and has been affiliated with Franciscan Health’s Sports Medicine Program for several years.
“Her role as softball coach at Lutheran is not a position associated with her role at Franciscan Health.”
Brazel has not said whether she plans to take legal action. But she likely would have trouble mounting a lawsuit, given a recent Supreme Court ruling that employees of religious schools are not protected by federal nondiscrimination laws, on the grounds that they are considered “ministers” tasked with propagating schools’ religious beliefs.
“I have loved every moment of my time spent serving the Lutheran community. I know God placed me there for a reason and now God is using me for another purpose,” Brazel said in a statement.
“I want to prove daily with my actions that you can be a member of the LGBTQ community and be a Christian. I hope to spread a message of love.
“And it is my hope that Lutheran high school administration use the Bible as a tool to share love and acceptance instead of as a weapon to discriminate.”
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