A Christian school in Colorado is challenging state officials over the claim its preschool is unable to participate in a universal pre-K program unless the institution is willing to “surrender its religious character and beliefs.” Jeremiah Galus, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said Darren Patterson Christian Academy is suing Colorado officials to push back on restrictions that would require the institution to hire employees who don’t share its faith values and alter internal rules and regulations. Galus said the school’s Busy Bees Preschool program was accepted to participate in Colorado’s inaugural universal preschool program, which pays up to 15 hours of preschool tuition for all 4-year-olds in the state. Darren Patterson Christian Academy officials were initially excited to continue serving the community — until purported restrictions came to light.
“The problem was that the state department that has been charged with administering this program has imposed rules that would require the school to give up its religious beliefs and its religious practices simply to participate,” Galus said. “It would have to agree to hire those who don’t share its faith or its values.” Galus said faith is central to the mission of Darren Patterson Christian Academy, which serves students in grades pre-K through the 8th grade and has been operational since 1982. “The fact that it’s Christian and gives a Christian education to students is fundamental to Darren Patterson Christian Academy,” the attorney said. “And so it does expect its teachers to share its faith.” Galus said the school serves “students and families of all faiths and backgrounds.” Still, the school makes it clear it “provides a Christian education from a biblical worldview.” Hiring teachers and staff who reflect this reality is key.
That’s why school officials teamed up with ADF to file a lawsuit and challenge what they see as restrictive measures disabling the institution from taking part in the government preschool program. “The school’s asking for no different treatment than every other business and organization,” Galus said. “Every secular business and organization expects its employees to share its values, and that’s all that Darren Patterson Christian Academy is trying to do.” These values are profoundly more pertinent for a religious school, where parents and families send their children with a specific instructional goal in mind. Christian schools don’t merely educate kids on school subject matter; they also inform and reinforce spiritual lessons. Galus, who called the restrictions and requirements “unconstitutional,” believes there’s no reason the school should have to compromise its Christian principles on gender and sexuality, to participate in the universal pre-K program.
“What the state of Colorado is saying to Darren Patterson Christian Academy is that you have to give up your religious beliefs to participate in this program,” he said. “The Supreme Court has been very clear that government officials cannot require religious organizations to give up their religious beliefs and practices to participate in a government program.” Parental choice is also an integral part of the equation, as parents select the schools to which they’d like to send their children. And parents who seek a Christian education for their kids, Galus believes, lose out if these requirements hold firm. “These parents who are supposed to be beneficiaries of this government program are being told by the state of Colorado that you cannot choose the religious education that you want for your children,” he said. Galus said Darren Patterson Christian Academy hopes the lawsuit concludes with a ruling condemning Colorado’s requirement for religious schools as “unconstitutional.”
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