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A private Christian preschool in Colorado is suing the state’s Department of Early Childhood for discrimination, alleging it will be denied state funding unless it adopts practices that violate employees’ religious beliefs.
The Darren Patterson Christian Academy runs the “Busy Bees” preschool in Buena Vista. It was accepted into a new universal preschool program that offers 15 hours a week of free preschool to every 4-year-old in the state. The school later learned of nondiscrimination provisions regarding gender identity, which must be adhered to in order to receive funding. It filed for a religious exemption to the provisions but was denied.
The federal civil rights lawsuit was filed last month on behalf of the school by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a nonprofit that describes itself as “the world’s largest legal organization advancing the God-given right to live and speak the truth.”
“The Constitution is clear: The government may not deny participation in a public program simply due to a school’s internal religious exercise,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus. “Colorado officials are violating the school’s First Amendment rights by forcing it to abandon its religious beliefs—the reason why parents choose to send their kids to the school—to receive critical state funding.”
The lawsuit names Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood Lisa Roy and Director of Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program Dawn Odean as defendants.
“This civil-rights action seeks to prevent the government from forcing a Christian preschool to surrender its religious character, beliefs, and exercise to participate in Colorado’s universal preschool program,” the lawsuit alleges.
It goes on to contend that the school is “now left with the choice of either … adhering to its religious beliefs and exercise and forfeiting participation in an otherwise generally available public program.”
“Unless it capitulates and agrees to violate its religious beliefs and exercise, the school will lose valuable tuition reimbursement from the state and inevitably some students and families too,” it continues.
The ADF recently represented the Colorado web designer who won her Supreme Court case allowing her to refuse services for people wanting same-sex wedding websites.