Christian university pushes back after local school district bans its student-teachers because of their faith

(Daily Caller) – The president of a Christian university in Arizona is striking back at a local school district after its governing body voted to ban student-teachers from the institution because…

(Daily Caller) – The president of a Christian university in Arizona is striking back at a local school district after its governing body voted to ban student-teachers from the institution because of an alleged threat it would pose to LGBTQ students, the Christian Post reported.

The five-person Washington Elementary School District governing body, located in Glendale, voted on Feb. 23 to end an 11-year agreement with Arizona Christian University (ACU) that permitted its students to serve as student-teachers, according to the Christian Post. The board, which consists of three members that reportedly identify as LGBTQ, alleged that having student-teachers from the Christian university would hurt LGBTQ-identifying students, but ACU President Len Munsil argues that the vote is “unlawful.”

“The school board’s recent decision to ban ACU students from serving as student teachers was done for one reason only: our university’s commitment to our Christian convictions. That’s wrong, it’s unlawful, and it will only hurt the district’s students,” Munsil said in a statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Religious liberty and freedom of conscience are bedrock American principles. We are exploring our options to defend the rights of our students.”

ACU’s mission is to offer “a biblically-integrated, liberal arts education equipping graduates to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in all aspects of life, as leaders of influence and excellence,” its website reads. It “exists to educate and equip followers of Christ to transform culture with the truth.”

“The Washington Elementary School District (WESD) Governing Board is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all our students, families, and staff. While we recognize the right of individuals to practice their faith, public schools are secular institutions,” the board said in a statement sent to the DCNF. “To that end, the board unanimously voted to discontinue its partnership with Arizona Christian University (ACU) whose policies do not align with our commitment to create a safe place for our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and community. This is not a rejection of any particular faith as we remain open to partnering with faith-based organizations that share our commitment to equity & inclusion.”

Tamillia Valenzuela, one of the board members, said during the meeting that while she supports religious freedom she had reservations about the school’s values conflicting with those of ACU, the Christian Post reported.

“I’m going to start with our values. First, our vision in Washington Elementary School District is committed to achieving excellence for every child, every day, every opportunity, every child. When I go to Arizona Christian University’s website, and I’m taking this directly from their website, ‘above all else, be committed to Jesus Christ, accomplishing His will and advancing His kingdom on earth as in heaven,’” she said, according to the Christian Post.

She then cited a commitment that upholds marriage is between a man and a woman.

Nikkie Gomez-Whaley, board president, said she was concerned that student-teachers would not be able to separate their work from their religion and that she was hesitant not because the students were Christian, but because they attend ACU, according to the Christian Post. She also said the board received emails from community members opposed to the partnership with ACU.

“Even though they may not … do anything illegal, where they are preaching or using Bible verses, how do you shut off an essential part of your being, and not be biased to the individuals in which you are in charge of nurturing and supporting unconditionally?” she said, according to the Christian Post. “I don’t see how that disconnect is possible.”

Student-teachers must sign statements pledging to not discriminate in the classroom, the Christian Post reported. Munsil said that there have been no reported problems with its student-teachers and that many are hired on full-time after graduation.