Kept out: School discourages gay, transgender enrollment


Like many educational institutions, St. John’s Lutheran School in Baraboo uses federal tax dollars to pay for certain programs, such as free and reduced-price lunches for disadvantaged students.

The funds for those programs are taken from all U.S. taxpayers, without discrimination. And federal civil rights protections say that any student who legally qualifies for the programs can participate, regardless of race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.

But taxpayers whose children are homosexual or transgender may not be able to take advantage of those programs, at least not at St. John’s. That’s because officials at the private religious school say they have the right to discipline students for making what they refer to as “sinful choices.”

“I didn’t mean any kind of move around, or to manipulate the law or anything like that,” St. John’s Principal Craig Breitkreutz said about a letter he wrote to parents in February.

In the letter, Breitkreutz outlined new rules that required parents to provide a birth certificate and sign a parent handbook agreement prior to enrollment.

The birth certificate allows the school to know the child’s born gender, and the handbook agreement — which apparently was recommended by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod — lists discretions for which a student can be disciplined and expelled, including homosexuality.

Because the school receives federal funds for its lunch program, transportation and through the No Child Left Behind program, it must comply with civil rights laws, Breitkreutz wrote. That means it can’t deny entry to protected classes, such as homosexual and transgender students.

“If we cannot legally refuse students who are struggling with homosexuality or gender identification, we must maintain our right to hold to the truths of God’s Word,” Breitkreutz wrote. “In other words, although we do not have the right to refuse admittance to people choosing an outwardly sinful lifestyle, we do maintain the right to discipline and dismiss students for these choices.”…

Policy questioned

A nonprofit group that works to strengthen the separation between religion and government says because the school receives federal funding, its policies are not legal.

“It is problematic for a school that receives federal funds to discriminate against students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Patrick Elliott, an attorney for the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. “Schools that are supported with taxpayer money must comply with minimum civil rights standards. St. John’s Lutheran School has indicated that it will dismiss students on an illegal basis under federal law.”

The Foundation filed a discrimination complaint against the school, saying it discriminates against students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has forwarded the complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the federal free and reduced-price lunch program…

Expulsion possible

Breitkreutz said the school’s policy with regard to homosexual and transgender students is similar to its policies for other behaviors that the church considers sinful, such as cheating or fighting with fellow students.

“We definitely don’t have a goal of finding a way to kick students out,” Breitkreutz said. “I mean, that’s not the goal. The goal is to share with them God’s word.”

The school has not had to discipline a homosexual or transgender student in his two years there, Breitkreutz said. But if a student displayed those tendencies, school officials would try to patiently instruct the child…

If the child was not receptive, and continued to live with a sexual orientation or gender identity that is not endorsed by St. John’s, the school board would have the right to expel that student, Breitkreutz said.

St. John’s Pastor Nick Maglietto said the February letter was intended to let parents know about the church’s views with regard to homosexual and transgender people prior to enrollment.

“So rather than us trying to weed them out, it’s more letting them know where we’re coming from up front and making their choice based on whether this would be an environment for their child,” he said.

Although Maglietto said the school does not intend to exclude people, he said it is “not welcoming” to homosexual and transgender students. But it is the parents’ choice to enroll their child or not.

Investigation underway

President Barack Obama recently instructed public schools to allow transgender students the right to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, rather than their birth certificate. Schools that don’t comply may be sued and lose federal funding.

The announcement has added to the ongoing national discussion over transgender rights, and prompted pushback from officials in several states that take issue with the directive.

With regard to the St. John’s letter, the USDA has opened an investigation based on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s complaint…



Hopefully the Department of Education will be eliminated and formerly federally collected tax dollars will be taken up and distributed within the States.

Private schools should refuse to take federal money. At this point it is nothing short of attempted blackmail by the Obama administration.


Not when HRC is president.


How can the school be accused of keeping students from lunch or a ride to school if those same things are offered in public schools?

If the government withdraws funding for those items, all that will happen is that some students will no longer be able to go there and be replaced by wealthier students. Does the government think that is a good thing?


How is this Christian? If sinners are excluded no one would be left in the school. This is unjust.


No president will eliminate the Department of Education.


Minimum standards are just.

It is not the sin that defines our spiritual journey. It is the will to repentance.
LBGTQ do not consider themselves sinners. They consider Christian ‘bigots’ who do not accept the goodness of their choice as the sinners.

It is not necessary that we be perfect. But the point is to have a clear and unambiguous teaching that tells us where perfection lies, and what is and what is not sin.

LBGTQ does not even accept the teaching that LBGTQ lifestyle in practition is sin.


Oh, I don’t know. Don’t sinners have to acknowledge that what they are doing is sinful? And isn’t Christianity about the redemption of sinners? And doesn’t Christianity and redemption presuppose an admission of sin, I.e. that what one is doing is sinful and that grace is available to overcome sin?

If we “are all sinners.” End stop. Doesn’t that mean that grace is ineffectual and that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross accomplished precisely nothing?

What you seem to be advocating is a kind of Christianity Light where we are all sinners and we should simply continue to be sinners (continue to sin) because someday we will be saved and until that day we all powerless to overcome sin?

How is that any different from the prescription to, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” just rephrased as “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow Christ will save us?”

What does it mean to be a Christian if it means nothing more than admitting you are sinner and do nothing to change that?


Probably true. And yet the DOE only began in May 1980. And yet, somehow, we managed to have schools all over the country before 1980. How was that possible?


What kind of parents would choose a school for their children where they are taught the opposite of what they learn at home? It is confusing at best for the child. To me it is abusive to use your children as pawns in an attempt to interfere with 2000 years of Christian teaching for others.

Secondly, would the Department of Education take any action against a Muslim School which taught the same things about same sex relationships?


Yes, if they were taking federal dollars.


Why would a parent want his transgender/homosexual child to attend a school where this is not acceptable. Talk about adding to the kid’s stress!! What kind of parent would insist on that?

I think the school has the obligation to exclude the above student and it will need to figure out how to transport and provide lunches.

If it means that disadvantage kids will be cut because the school cannot transfer them to the distance and more affluent children will be admitted, so be it. The affluent kids are just as in need of a religious education as the poorer kids.


When working with children they have a right to protect the children from that kind of influence. Forcing it on all kids is wrong. Doesn’t anyone care about those children??? They are trying to force Christians to accept things we know are against Christ’s teaching. The parents know this before they try to enroll their children and should have to live up to the rules. Federal funding for lunch etc, should have NOTHING to do with this. The Government needs to keep its nose out of the faith of private schools. God Bless, Memaw


One would think it has nothing to do with this, but it does. Accepting federal funding will also give the feds the right regarding the bathroom and gym issues recently in the news.

There had to have been a time when schools had their own lunch programs.Tell the feds thank but no thanks, and tell the parents to start packing their kids a lunch.


This is selectively applied to what is numerically a very small group. Sins that are just as grievous but more common (heterosexual fornication) get silence and tacit approval. This isn’t about holding the line on sin but picking a very vulnerable group of individuals and singling them out for two minutes hate. It’s the very reason people are angry.


So religious education is affirmative action for the rich? Are rich sinners more worthy of consideration?


Is it Wiscnews that is baiting and switching? Or Mr Breitelbaum? Or the school documents? Or the Freedom From Religion Foundation? Or the DoE? Or more than one of these?

“Identity” and an act requiring discipline look different things from here.


So since all of us are sinners the school must accommodate all sins?


The government should be there to facilitate not dictate.


This is a bad idea, for two major reasons. First, it only adds to the misconception that Christians are bigots that just want to hurt LGBTQ people, because we’re evil mean and nasty and that’s what we do for a living. I cringe to think of how many ways this will be spun.

Second, It goes against the Christian teaching of loving your neighbor. It’s hard to show love to people who are “discouraged” from joining your school! Of all the ways this could have been handled, this was not the way to do it.

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