Home Christian News Former Calvin Professor Sues After Losing Job for Performing Queer Wedding

Former Calvin Professor Sues After Losing Job for Performing Queer Wedding

Calvin University professor Joe Kuilema, right, officiates the wedding of Nicole Sweda and Annica Steen on Oct. 15, 2021. Photo courtesy of Nicole Sweda

(RNS) — A former Calvin University professor who lost his job after performing a wedding for a transgender former student has sued the evangelical school for retaliation and discrimination.

In a complaint filed Friday (April 14), lawyers for Joseph Kuilema, who taught social work at Calvin from 2008 to 2022, alleged that school officials fired the former professor due to his support of LGBTQ students and that they retaliated against him for complaining about a film shown on campus that he believed was racist.

The complaint also alleges that Calvin discriminated against one of Kuilema’s former students after he performed their wedding and that he was fired after complaining about the school’s actions. Kuilema’s attorneys argue school officials at the Grand Rapids university violated Michigan’s civil rights law.

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Calvin is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, whose doctrine defines “adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography and homosexual sex” as sinful. In 2022, the church voted to make that doctrine confessional — meaning churches, church members and church-affiliated institutions are expected to agree with the teaching in order to remain in good standing. Before 2022, church members could disagree with the teaching as long as they agreed to abide by it.

In a statement, a Calvin spokesman said the university has long allowed faculty to have diverse viewpoints but also has clear rules about conduct.

“While there is room for personal disagreement with CRC doctrine, the university has clear expectations for employees regarding teaching, scholarship and personal conduct and follows established processes to review alleged violations of those expectations and to determine appropriate responses,” the spokesperson said. “We are confident those processes were followed in this case and plan to defend this lawsuit in court. At this time, the university has no further comment on active litigation. “

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The complaint details Kuilema’s long-running dispute with school policy.

In 2016, according to the complaint, he began working on a history of LBGTQ employees who had been fired by the school, in hopes of publishing the piece in the student newspaper. The complaint alleges that he was blocked from doing so.

Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo by Andy Calvert, courtesy of Calvin University

Kuilema also “routinely and openly expressed concerns about Calvin’s treatment of and toward LGBT+ people,” according to the complaint.

While he did inform students about church teaching, Kuilema did not attempt to persuade students to follow that doctrine.

“Rather, he was bluntly honest and vocal with his students, fellow faculty and fellow Calvin community members whenever he disagreed with the CRC’s position, particularly in regard to its positions regarding LGBT+ persons,” stated the complaint.