(Daily Caller News Foundation) – California state officials agreed to settle with the Church of Compassion and Dayspring Christian Learning Center Tuesday for nearly $200,000 after trying to exclude the church from the state’s preschool lunch program.
The church and the center, alongside Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a lawsuit in June last year alleging that officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Social Services barred them from participating in the “Child and Adult Food Care Program” because of their religious beliefs on gender and sex. ADF and state officials filed a settlement agreement this week requiring the defendants to pay $30,000 for meals paid out of pocket in the absence of state funding and $160,000 for attorney’s fees.
“In the name of combatting discrimination, government officials excluded the church and preschool from serving the El Cajon community based solely on their religious beliefs and exercise,” Jeremiah Galus, senior counsel for ADF, said in a press release. “While it shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit to resolve this, at least now Church of Compassion can continue its vital outreach to needy children and families.”
The center had been a part of the USDA’s program for nearly two decades when the department changed its rules in 2021 requiring all participants to commit to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In May 2023, the department also required state directors of USDA’s food and nutrition service programs to prohibit “discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.”
Church of Compassion and Dayspring Christian Learning Center failed to meet these new requirements for the 2022-2023 school year because of their beliefs on “human sexuality” and their refusal to “use any child or employee’s ‘preferred’ pronouns that do not correspond to biological sex,” according to the lawsuit. ADF argued that the department and state officials were deliberately discriminating against the church and the learning center because of its faith in violation of the First Amendment.
“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,” Galus said in the press release.