Friday, November 15, 2019

School's Challenge To Disqualification From Voucher Program Moves Ahead

In Bethel Ministries, Inc. v. Salmon(D MD, Nov. 14, 2019), a Maryland federal district court refused to dismiss a suit brought by a Christian school against state authorities claiming that the school was discriminated against on religious grounds when its eligibility to participate in the state's school voucher program (known as "BOOST") was removed. In order to participate, a school has to have a non-discrimination policy that include bans on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  As explained by the court:
Bethel does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its statement of nondiscrimination.... In the next paragraph, the handbook says, It should be noted, however, that Bethel Christian Academy supports the biblical view of marriage defined as a covenant between one man and one woman, and that God immutably bestows gender upon each person at birth as male or female to reflect his image … faculty, staff, and student conduct is expected to align with this view....
Irrespective of any language in the handbook, however, Bethel does not consider sexual orientation in the admissions process. The court reasoned:
If, as it alleges, Bethel has not discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation in admissions, then it has plausibly alleged that Defendants infringed upon several of its constitutional rights. Namely, Bethel has presented a plausible case that the Advisory Board’s determination of ineligibility was motivated by the school’s religious affiliation.