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Federal Judge Blocks Colorado's Exclusion of Christian School from Preschool Program Due to Religious Policies

published October 27, 2023

By Author - LawCrossing
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( 2 votes, average: 4.3 out of 5)
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Federal Judge Blocks Colorado's Exclusion of Christian School from Preschool Program Due to Religious Policies

U.S. District Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction Against State's Non-Discrimination Requirements
 

In a significant legal development, a federal judge has intervened to prevent Colorado from excluding a Christian private school from its taxpayer-funded universal preschool program. The exclusion was rooted in the school's policy that mandates employees to adhere to its faith and requires students to use bathrooms and pronouns under their biological sex. U.S. District Judge Daniel Domenico issued a preliminary injunction, effectively blocking the state from prohibiting the Darren Patterson Christian Academy's participation in the program or penalizing it for its religious principles, seemingly conflicting with the state's non-discrimination regulations.
 
The Judicial Ruling
 
Judge Domenico, in his decision, emphasized that "Exclusion of a preschool is inherently anti-universal, and denying participation based on one's protected beliefs or speech is not equitable." This ruling underscores the importance of equitable access to public programs, even when there is tension between religious freedoms and non-discrimination requirements.
 
Background and School's Challenge
 
The Darren Patterson Christian Academy, the sole Christian school in Chaffee County offering preschool, was initially granted approval to participate in the universal preschool program earlier this year. However, the school sought an exemption from the non-discrimination requirements imposed by the Colorado Department of Early Childhood. These requirements prohibited schools from discriminating based on religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other protected statuses.
 
The department rejected the school's request, arguing that the non-discrimination requirement was mandated by state law. The state also contended that the school lacked the legal standing to challenge these requirements before enforcement.
 
Legal Justification for the School
 
Judge Domenico recognized the school's credible concern regarding the potential enforcement of these requirements. He ruled that the needs, mainly when applied to the hiring of teachers, could infringe upon the school's policy of exclusively employing born-again Christians who abstain from sexual activity outside the context of heterosexual marriage. Additionally, he asserted that obliging the school to use a student's or employee's preferred pronouns as a condition for program participation would likely violate the school's free speech rights.
 
Religious Beliefs and Legal Precedents
 
The school's internal policies regarding the biological sex of students and staff are rooted in its religious conviction that there are only "two unique, immutable sexes," male and female. Judge Domenico's decision drew inspiration from a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, 303 Creative, LLC v. Elenis, in which it was established that Colorado could not enforce anti-discrimination laws to mandate a wedding website designer to create websites for same-sex weddings.
 
Reactions and Pending Litigation
 
Jeremiah Galus, the attorney representing the Darren Patterson Christian Academy, welcomed the ruling, asserting that "the government cannot force religious schools to abandon their beliefs." On the other hand, a spokesperson for Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser, who defended the state's requirements, has yet to respond to requests for comment.
 
This legal battle is not isolated, as several other religious organizations have contested Colorado's non-discrimination requirements. Notably, a similar lawsuit by the Archdiocese of Denver is pending, indicating that this issue has broad implications and is far from settled.

published October 27, 2023

By Author - LawCrossing
( 2 votes, average: 4.3 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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