Bethel College graduate says he lost his summer job because he is gay

WSBT 22 Photo

A new Bethel College graduate says he lost his summer job because he is gay.

Kyle Walterhouse dreams of being a music teacher.

He just graduated with a degree from Bethel College and plays piano at Zion United Church of Christ in South Bend.

"I decided to go to Bethel because of the programs that they have. I knew that their music department and their education department are both strong,” said Walterhouse.

Walterhouse also knew going to Bethel meant signing the school's covenant.

One of the rules is not engaging in homosexual behavior.

Walterhouse is gay.

"I was like OK, I can make it through the four years,” said Walterhouse.

After graduation, Walterhouse says he felt free to be himself. He changed his Facebook relationship status to show he was dating a man.

Shortly thereafter, he got an email from his boss at Bethel.

Walterhouse was planning to continue working at the college cleaning dorms and other buildings. Walterhouse says his manager told him he had a choice: Take down his Facebook status or not have a summer job.

He chose to take a stand.

"It's more than just the Facebook status. Yes, it's just social media, but it's a situation other people have to deal with. It's not just me. There are other people in other states and areas that have to deal with this kind of thing,” said Walterhouse.

South Bend Attorney Peter Agostino is not involved in this case. He says these kinds of cases are complicated and coming up all across the country.

The laws can seem contradictory.

Just last year the 7th Circuit, which covers northern Indiana, ruled in a South Bend case that sexual orientation is a protected class under the Civil Rights Act.

However, laws like Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act can give certain exceptions to religious institutions.

Each case forces courts to balance everyone's constitutional rights.

"Now you have this tension between first amendment free exercise of religion and equal protection interest. Those don't always match up,” said Agostino.

Agostino says that tension forces people to try and work things out.

"I think it’s a symptom of what’s good and right with our system of government. That is that we don’t have clear cut answers to every single thing," said Agostino. "To achieve some type of justice in society you need some type of balance. When you have tension between these kind of rights, it forces people to try and work things out.”

For now Walterhouse doesn't plan on taking legal action, he just wants to spark a conversation.

"It needs to be something that is talked about more and enforced in a positive way where there's justice for everybody,” said Agostino.

WSBT 22 reached out to Bethel College for comment.

A spokesperson sent us a link to their employment policies.

The policy says employees must agree to the school's covenant of lifestyle which includes that marriage is between one man and one woman.

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