State and Christian Preschool Settle Lawsuit

State and Christian Preschool Settle Lawsuit

A California church and preschool reached a favorable settlement with state officials on Jan. 16 after being unlawfully booted out of the Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP) for their refusal to conform to radical gender guidelines. The agreement has the state reimbursing the school nearly $200,000—over $30,000 for their out-of-pocket expenses as they continued feeding families without the federal funding, as well as $160,000 for their attorney costs.

El Cajon, just outside San Diego, where Church of Compassion and Dayspring Learning Center are located, has a large population of low-income and immigrant citizens. According to court documents, many of the families the church and school serve are dependent on governmental assistance.

In 2022, after the Biden administration redefined “sex” in Title IX to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) tried to force Dayspring to conform with new guidelines for nondiscrimination against LGBTQ individuals, covering bathrooms, dress codes, employment and pronoun usage. The National Center for Law and Policy (NCLP) warned the CDSS that this would violate the First Amendment, but the CDSS proceeded.

Church of Compassion and Dayspring did not conform, as the CDSS’s requirements conflicted with their religious beliefs, and the state removed the preschool from the federal food program and put it on the CACFP Disqualified List in December of 2022. Dayspring continued to feed the low-income families of their community out-of-pocket.

The church and preschool did not discriminate in who they served, including LGBTQ families whose children attended the school and who “understand and appreciate the religious instruction their children receive at the preschool,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). “While the church and preschool serve all families, they do not teach or promote all messages.”

ADF and NCLP filed a lawsuit on the church and preschool’s behalf, and Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office declined to defend the state, leading to the $200,000 settlement.

“Ironically,” the amended complaint filed in June of last year said, “in the name of combatting discrimination, Defendants have excluded the Church and Preschool based solely on their religious character, beliefs, and exercise.”

“The government can’t withhold food from families in need simply because their children attend a Christian preschool. The Constitution protects the right of Church of Compassion and its preschool to operate according to the dictates of their faith,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus.

“This is a major victory for religious liberty,” said Greg Burt, vice president of the California Family Council. “The state should not discriminate against churches and other religious non-profits because they won’t abandon their Biblical beliefs.”

Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom

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