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Christian school to sue after it lost state benefits over anti-LGBTI stance

Christian school to sue after it lost state benefits over anti-LGBTI stance

A school classroom at the Bethel Christian Academy (Photo: Facebook)

A private Christian school in Maryland, Baltimore is suing the state after it was denied taxpayer money because of its anti-LGBTI stance.

Administrators of a scholarship program to fund low-income kids’ education ruled in 2018 taxpayer money cannot go to the school, the Baltimore Sun reports.

They cited the school’s handbook. It says marriage can only be between a man and a woman. It also says God assigns a gender to a child at birth.

Staff and students are ‘expected to align’ with this view and therefore discriminates against students because of their sexual orientation.

The Bethel Christian Academy, will argue in court that the ruling is infringing on its First Amendment right to religious freedom.

The school filed a federal lawsuit last month, local media reports.

‘The Supreme Court has been very clear that there is no place in our society for religious hostility,’ Christiana Holcomb, the school’s legal counsel, said according to the Baltimore Sun. ‘That is the crux of the issue of this case.’

Profound consequences beyond school

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal organization actively fighting equal rights for LGBTI people, will represent the school.

ADF’s attorneys famously narrowly won a Supreme Court case for a Colorado baker. Jack Philips refused to make a cake for a gay couple.

LGBTI rights advocates have warned religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws pose the ‘greatest threat’ to the LGBTI community in the US.

Human Rights Watch found eight states had statewide exemptions harming LGBTI people. These are Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

HRW said lawmakers began leaning on religious exemption bills once LGBTI people in the US began gaining more rights.

For example, after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.

In March last year, a group of 22 Republicans tabled a ‘religious liberty’ bill.

The legislation aimed to legalize discrimination against LGBTI people because of ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’. Luckily, the group did not succeed in passing the bill.

David Rocah, an attorney with the ACLU in Maryland, said the school case fitted into this nationwide battle.

‘I think it is part of a larger attempt by the religious right in this country to create a license to discriminate on the basis of religion,’ Rocah told the Baltimore Sun.

The lawsuit also ‘threatens to undermine the entire fabric of anti-discrimination law in this country with profound consequences’, he warned.

See also

Fired gay high school teacher sues Archdiocese of Indianapolis

LGBTI bullying the most common in UK schools, study finds 

Amazon to support LGBTI inclusivity in schools with Reading Roadshow