A Christian school is suing Colorado education officials for the right to participate in the state’s new universal preschool program.
Darren Patterson Christian Academy (DPCA), a PreK-8 Expeditionary Learning school, has filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Early Childhood and Universal Preschool Program, alleging anti-religious discrimination.
DPCA was initially approved to participate in the program but now is being told it must give up its Christ-centered practices to do so.
“The Constitution is clear: The government may not deny participation in a public program simply due to the school’s internal religious exercise,” said Jeremiah Galus, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and attorney for the plaintiff.
“Colorado officials are violating the school’s First Amendment rights by forcing it to abandon its religious beliefs – the reason why parents choose to send their kids to the school – to receive critical state funding.”
The lawsuit claims Colorado has violated both the First and Fourteenth Amendments by trying to exclude DPCA because of its religious nature.
The school welcomes all students regardless of their religious background but requires its staff to be Christian and has orthodox policies regarding restroom usage, pronouns, and student housing during field trips.
It intentionally limits its enrollment to 100 students to “provide personalized care and instruction … [and] a safe, family centered environment.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently approved the pre-school funding program, which launches on July 1, and traditional schools are scrambling to prepare.
“It just feels rushed,” an early childhood director in a Metro school district told local media.
Other school officials were concerned about their ability to screen for disabilities, enrollment, and sustainability of the program
“There’s a concern that if the uptick for UPK is so strong, that there’s not enough money at the end of all those priorities to fund full-day, we might have to pick it up in other ways,” said Mat Aubuchon, director of early childhood education in the Westminster district.
Meanwhile, the Christian school has six preschool teachers but may not be allowed to participate simply because they hire Christian teachers.
Other states have been taken to court for similar anti-religious discrimination – including a Minnesota dual enrollment program that tried to force out Christian colleges and a Florida sports association that tried to ban public prayer.