Krystal Brazel spent five years as a coach and athletic trainer at Lutheran High School of Indianapolis without incident. In fact, she was beloved by the school’s student-athletes, serving as a one-person athletic training department and tending to wide varieties of injuries. But Brazel says she was dismissed for being gay, and thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that upholds religious schools’ right to discriminate, she has no apparent legal recourse.
Her sexuality wasn’t an issue until it was.
Brazel told her story recently to the Indianapolis Star, detailing her five years at the small private religious school. As an employee of Franciscan Health, Brazel was assigned to Lutheran High School, which lacked a proper training facility of any sort. She started off taping ankles on bleachers or the side of a track, until she convinced the school to convert part of its weight room into an actual training space.
The students appreciated Brazel’s efforts. One grateful family even made a banner thanking her for her work. It stayed in the gym until she left.
While Brazel says she didn’t flaunt her sexuality, she was open about her life, posting photos of her then-girlfriend on public social media accounts. She wound up proposing to her partner on the school’s softball field, taking a knee in the batter’s box.
“I got her in the batter’s box and I got down on one knee,” Brazel told the Indy star. “I read something to her and it was just symbolic, that our whole relationship was about being ready to step up to the batter’s box and swing for the fences.”
Lutheran High School is one of more than 1,900 childhood centers and schools nationwide that belong to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Indy Star reports. It is a conservative denomination of Lutheran, relying on a strict and literal interpretation of the Bible. Its current president, Rev. Matthew Harrison, insists all schools must be in line with the religion’s teachings.
Still, Brazel says she spent 4.5 conflict-free years at the school as trainer and softball coach, until she was called into a meeting with the headmaster and athletic director. There, the headmaster read from a handbook that says any form of “sexual immorality,” including homosexuality, is “sinful and offensive to God.” If Brazel was going to keep working at Lutheran High School, she had to pledge to uphold those standards.
As an openly gay woman, the request was impossible for Brazel to fulfill. She asked what was different, but says she never received an answer. Last month, she was told she wouldn’t be allowed back at the school.
“I looked at him like, ‘You know I can’t. And you know that I couldn’t have signed this any other year either,’” she said to the Indy Star.
Though the Supreme Court issued a historic ruling last month outlawing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, it separately ruled that federal employment laws don’t apply to private school teachers who work in religious institutions.
Lutheran High School officials didn’t return to requests for comment from the Indy Star.
As a devout Christian herself, Brazel says discrimination is antithetical to Jesus’ true teachings.
“He would love first,” she said. “And I think that’s the most important message that we as Christians need to live by because too many people use the Bible as a weapon instead of as a tool to share love and faith and acceptance.”