City blocks opening of Christian school because of religious beliefs: Legal Group
A Massachusetts school board violated state law and the US Constitution by refusing to allow a new private Christian school to open, in part because of the school’s religious beliefs on sexuality and evolution, according to a legal group.
Massachusetts state law requires that all private schools be approved by the local public school district.
Vida Real Church, a predominantly Hispanic congregation, had hoped to open a K-8 Christian school in the spring of 2021 called Real Life Learning Center (RLLC) but failed to gain approval from the Somerville Public School Board in Somerville, Mass. The committee is made up of seven elected officials, in addition to the mayor and the president of the municipal council.
The First Liberty Institute, which represents the church, sent an 11-page letter to the school district on March 30 alleging violations of state law and the US Constitution. It was signed by representatives of First Liberty and the Massachusetts Family Institute.
The church had applied in September 2021.
A report approved by the Somerville Public School Committee this year claimed the school “does not meet the criteria” for approval. Among other things, the report criticized the school’s beliefs about sexuality and evolution.
“The school’s position on homosexuality and creationism[s] it is difficult to see how a comprehensive science and health program is possible,” the report states. “The school’s approach to student services and counseling appears to devalue evidence-based psychology and its emphasis on approaches rooted in the belief that mental illness is caused by sin and demons is unscientific. and harmful.”
A member of the committee reportedly said blocking the app was the “morally right thing to do”.
First Liberty maintains that the school meets state approval standards.
“The hostility displayed by the Somerville Public School Board is outrageous,” said Justin Butterfield, First Liberty’s assistant general counsel. “The government can’t ban a religious school because it doesn’t agree with their religious beliefs. This violates federal constitutional and statutory law.
The school hopes to open in the fall. If the committee continues to block the request, the church will “pursue all available legal options,” the letter says.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and current affairs for 20 years. His stories have appeared in the Baptist Press, Christianity today, The Christian Post, the Sheet-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.