USDA Clarifies That All Religious Schools Are Exempt From School Lunch Mandate

USDA Clarifies That All Religious Schools Are Exempt From School Lunch Mandate

In a document released Aug. 12, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) clarified that it would not require religious schools to broaden their definition of sex-based discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity in order to receive federal meal funding.

“Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (‘Title IX’) is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination by educational institutions receiving financial assistance from the federal government, including USDA,” the document read. “Although this prohibition applies to a wide array of public and private schools at the K-12 and the college/university level, the law includes some exceptions, including one permitting an institution to be exempt on religious grounds if there is a conflict between Title IX and a school’s governing religious tenets.”

In May, USDA published a mandate announcing that all schools receiving federal funds through its Food and Nutrition Service would have to adhere to transgender-inclusive policies in order to participate in the National School Lunch Program.

The National School Lunch Program provides low-cost and free lunches to children at nearly 100,000 public, nonprofit private schools and childcare centers.

Grant Park Christian Academy, a Christian school in Tampa, Florida, sued President Joe Biden and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. The school argued that complying with the mandate would undermine “its educational mission, free speech and religious exercise.”

Nine days after Grant Park filed suit, state and federal government officials said that they would grant the school’s request for a religious exemption to the mandate.

Now USDA has specified that all religious institutions are entitled to an exemption to the mandate. 

“Thanks to [Alliance Defending Freedom’s] willingness to call the Biden administration’s bluff, the government was forced to publicly ‘clarify’ a policy exemption ‘on religious grounds if there is a conflict between Title IX and a school’s governing religious tenets,’” Family Research Council’s The Washington Stand tweeted.

Photo: Marc F. Henning/Alamy

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