A federal judge rejected a request from a Maryland private Christian school to allow the school to continue participating in a school voucher program.
According to The Christian Post, U.S. District Court Judge Stephani Gallagher agreed with the state to deny a motion from Bethel Christian Academy in Savage, Maryland.
The school had asked to stay in Maryland’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program. The school was removed from the program after the 2017-2018 school year.
Bethel Christian Academy had accepted BOOST program vouchers from low-income students for two years before a state advisory committee reviewed the school’s handbook and decided to pull the school from the program.
The handbook, which was updated in 2017, details the school’s religious beliefs. In its nondiscrimination policy for admissions, the handbook says the school does not discriminate for admission based on race, color, national and ethnic origin.
The policy does not include the words “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
Previously, the handbook said the school supports the biblical view of marriage “as defined as a covenant between one man and one woman.” For the 2019-2020 school year, Bethel Christian Academy removed this from their admissions section of the handbook.
In its view on gender identity, the handbook says “God immutably bestows gender upon each person at birth as male or female to reflect his image.”
“[F]aculty, staff, and student conduct is expected to align with this view,” the handbook says.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland state officials said the school cannot receive BOOST funds because state law prohibits tax dollars from going to institutions with inadequate discrimination policies. Officials said because the handbook does not include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in its discrimination policy, the school is not allowed to receive BOOST funds.
The school is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“The government may not discriminate against religious schools simply because it dislikes their religious beliefs,” ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker said in a statement. “Maryland’s families deserve better; that’s why we’re asking the court to stop the state from targeting and denying children scholarships simply based on the beliefs and policies set out in their school’s parent-student handbook.”
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Yannis Papanastasopoulos
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.