ABOVE: Photo Courtesy: Alliance Defending Freedom
A Christian school in Vermont is suing state officials for barring the school and its students from participating in the state's tuition program and sports league because of their biblical beliefs on sexuality and gender.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a nonprofit religious rights law firm, is representing Mid Vermont Christian School and two families after Vermont's Agency of Education and Vermont Principals' Association allegedly discriminated against the school because it did not adopt the state's view on sexuality and gender –"namely, that sex is mutable and biological differences do not matter"– as a condition to participate in the state's tuition program and athletic association.
According to the ADF, requiring the faith-based school to adopt such a policy is a violation of the First Amendment rights of Mid Vermont Christian, its students and families, and other faith-based schools by preventing them from practicing their religious beliefs about sexuality and gender.
"The students who choose to attend Mid Vermont Christian are currently losing out on valuable tuition reimbursement and being excluded from playing competitive sports and participating in academic competitions, including the Goodwin and Slarve children, whom we represent in this case," said ADF Legal Counsel Jake Reed.
"Vermont, through its education agency and sports association, has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination by requiring a Christian school and its students to surrender their religious beliefs and practices in order to receive public funds and compete in sports," he added.
As CBN News reported, the ADF represented two high school students, their parents, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington in a federal lawsuit last year against Vermont officials for discriminating against students and denying them a tuition benefit just because they attend a religious high school.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont ruled in favor of the students, parents, and the Catholic school, stating that denying the tuition benefit for religious schools is "unconstitutional and unenforceable."
But now Vermont's Agency of Education is refusing to designate Mid Vermont Christian as an approved independent school because of its religious beliefs, which means the school cannot participate in the state's Town Tuitioning Program.
Meanwhile, the Vermont Principals' Association (VPA) has kicked the school out of the state's athletic association because the school operates its own athletic program consistent with its religious beliefs about sexuality and gender.
Previously, the VPA prohibited boys from playing on girls' sports teams "to protect opportunities for girl athletes," but recently adopted policies that allow biological males to participate in girls' sports.
The association is refusing to let Mid Vermont Christian into sports competitions unless it agrees with its updated policy.
So far, the school has had to forfeit a girls' high school basketball game against a team that had a male athlete playing for them and they cannot participate in any VPA athletics, including those scheduled for the spring.
The VPA is also "blacklisting" the school from all state-sponsored events in the state including co-ed academic competitions like the Geo-Bee, Science and Math Fair, and Debate and Forensics League.
"Vermont has an infamous record of discriminating against religious schools and families, whether it be withholding generally available public funding or denying them membership in the state's sports league because they hold religious beliefs that differ from the state's preferred views," said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries.
"The state's unlawful exclusion of Mid Vermont Christian from participating in the tuition program and athletic association is the latest example of state officials trampling on constitutionally protected rights. And egregiously, Vermont continues its blatant discrimination against religious schools despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Carson v. Makin that the government cannot exclude families from public benefits just because they choose religious education for their children," he added.
CBN News has reached out to the Vermont Agency of Education for comment. At the time of publication, they had not responded.