Christian School Banned From Voucher Program Over Biblical Beliefs

A Christian school in Savage, Maryland, has filed a federal lawsuit after Maryland officials canceled the school’s eligibility for a state-sponsored school voucher program just weeks before the school year started, and demanded the school repay over $100,000 from previous years’ funding—all because of their Biblical beliefs on marriage and gender.

Bethel Christian Academy, a private school for students in preschool through eighth grade, has participated in Maryland’s school voucher program since it started.

According to The Baltimore Sun, “Maryland’s voucher program, begun in the 2016-17 school year, offers students a taxpayer-funded scholarship to attend a private school. Called Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students, or BOOST, the program’s $7 million budget is enough to support more than 3,000 students. The scholarships go to low-income students who want to attend a school where the tuition is less than $14,000.”

The complaint filed on behalf of the school by Alliance Defending Freedom, says: “As a distinctly Christian school, Bethel believes that marriage is exclusively the covenantal union of one man and one woman. … [and] that God immutably created each person in His image as either male or female.” All faculty, staff and students are expected to align their conduct with Bethel’s beliefs.

According to Bethel Christian Academy’s website, the school exists “to create an authentic Christian learning community to train students to know, love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and to equip them spiritually and academically to be lights to the world.”

With more than 20% of Bethel’s students receiving some financial aid, at least six students no longer can afford to attend the school without the voucher funding.

In addition, when Maryland removed the school from the voucher program, it affected more than just tuition costs, Bethel Principal Claire Dant told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

According to Dant, the BOOST program is also tied to the non-public school textbook and technology program, which helps low-income students afford books and tools needed for school, and the Aging Schools grant program, which provides funding to older facilities for maintenance and upkeep. Both of these programs provide thousands of dollars of funding that Bethel has now been banned from receiving.

“Our building is a historic building which requires up keep,” Dant told The Daily Signal. “That grant program was extremely valuable to us in upgrading windows and those sorts of things. The state tied both of those programs to the [Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today] program.”

“The state has refused to play by its own rules,” said Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel representing the school. “While Bethel fully complied with the program’s requirements, Maryland let its hostility toward Bethel’s religious views, not the law, decide the school’s eligibility. Maryland’s families deserve better; that’s why we’re asking the court to address the state’s hostility.”

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit Bethel Ministries v. Salmon in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division.

 

Above: Principal Claire Dant (center) with students at Bethel Christian Academy in Savage, Maryland.

Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom