Barred for Religious Beliefs, Christian School Sues Vermont

Barred for Religious Beliefs, Christian School Sues Vermont

A Christian school in Vermont is suing Vermont officials in federal court after it was barred from a state-funded tuition program, as well as the state’s interscholastic sports league. The school ran afoul of the state after it canceled a girls basketball game last February rather than compete against a biological male athlete.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, who are representing Mid Vermont Christian School and two families, filed a federal lawsuit on Nov. 21, saying state officials barred the Christian school from participating in state programs because of its religious beliefs.

The state’s Agency of Education and the Vermont Principals’ Association requires all participating schools to adhere to the state’s view on human sexuality and gender—“namely, that sex is mutable and biological differences do not matter,” as ADF puts it. The lawsuit claims such requirements violate the First Amendment rights of the school, its students and families, and other faith-based schools.

“Vermont has an infamous record of discriminating against religious schools and families, whether it be withholding generally available public funding or denying them membership in the state’s sports league because they hold religious beliefs that differ from the state’s preferred views,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “The state’s unlawful exclusion of Mid Vermont Christian from participating in the tuition program and athletic association is the latest example of state officials trampling on constitutionally protected rights.

“And egregiously, Vermont continues its blatant discrimination against religious schools despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makin [a case originating in Maine] that the government cannot exclude families from public benefits just because they choose religious education for their children.”

According to ADF, the Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) only recently adopted policies that allow biological males to participate in girls’ sports and “refuses to let the school back in unless it capitulates and agrees to force its girls to compete against biological males and to let males on its own girls’ teams.” The VPA’s decision even affects academic competitions such as debate and regional and state spelling bees.

Additionally, the VPA has barred Mid Vermont Christian School, which serves students pre-K though 12th grade near the town of Quechee, from participating in the state’s Town Tuitioning Program because of its religious beliefs on sexuality and gender. As in Maine, the state program subsidizes tuition at approved private schools for public school students in towns that don’t have a public high school.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Mid Vermont Christian School v. Bouchey, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont.

ADF says Vermont officials have been inconsistent in dealing with faith-based schools. In December 2022, ADF settled two lawsuits on behalf of several families and the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, who sued state officials for discriminating against students and denying them the tuition benefit because they attended religious schools. As part of the settlement in those cases, Vermont officials agreed to apply the state’s tuition benefit program fairly.

Photo courtesy Alliance Defending Freedom

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