A 17-year-old student at a Lutheran school in Texas says he was pressured to leave the school because he is gay. Austin Wallis, a video blogger, says the school principal called him into the office after discovering Wallis’ YouTube channel, on which he posts videos encouraging other kids to be comfortable with their sexuality. He was then given an ultimatum: delete his YouTube channel or face expulsion.
According to Wallis, the principal of Lutheran High North, a private school in Houston, told him, “We cannot have you promoting a sinful lifestyle on air to the public.”
In an emotional video posted last week, Wallis tearfully explained that he chose to leave rather than hide who he was. “I had to leave all my friends, and all my teachers, and I don’t want people to think I left just because of the social media,” he said. “It was because I can’t stay somewhere where I feel like I’m being forced into something that I’m not and where I feel like I’m not wanted by my own principal and head of the board.”
The head of the school told the Texas Observer that the situation was being “misrepresented” but defended the school’s right to expel students for being gay, which is considered “intrinsically sinful” by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. “We respectfully require students to adhere to these accepted values and moral beliefs,” the school’s statement read. “Sometimes, as in this case, students have to make choices and decide whether their beliefs align with our community and we respect their choices. We also respect student privacy and do not comment on any individual student or their actions.”
The school also pointed to a “morals clause” in its student handbook that states: “Lutheran High North reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a current student participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning: pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity; or displaying an inability or resistance to support the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle.”
Morals clauses like this one have been used in many Christian school codes across the country to reject LGBT students who are open about their identity. Because these schools — like Lutheran High North — are private, they are legally allowed to discriminate against gay students. Yet in some states, these anti-LGBT private schools are still reaping taxpayer dollars through state-run voucher programs, tax credits and scholarships designed to funnel money to conservative Christian schools.
In the video, Wallis pledged to keep speaking out against the discrimination he and others like him have faced. “I am a Christian and I love my God and I don’t feel like this is what he would have wanted. And I don’t feel like excluding someone for who they are is anything near Christian,” he said.