Vermont Christian School Challenges Discrimination in Federal Lawsuit Against State Officials

By Danielle Dolin

by Danielle Dolin

In a significant legal move, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys, representing Mid Vermont Christian School and two families, filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against Vermont officials. The lawsuit alleges that the state’s education system and athletic association have unjustly excluded the Christian school and its students from participating in Vermont’s tuition program and sports league due to their religious beliefs.

The heart of the matter lies in Vermont’s requirement, facilitated by its Agency of Education and Vermont Principals’ Association, for private, religious schools like Mid Vermont Christian to adopt the state’s perspective on human sexuality and gender. Specifically, the state mandates adherence to the belief that sex is mutable, and biological differences are inconsequential. This condition, according to ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries, violates the First Amendment rights of Mid Vermont Christian, its students, and families.

“Vermont has an infamous record of discriminating against religious schools and families,” asserts Tucker. He highlights the state’s pattern of withholding public funding and denying membership in the sports league to institutions that hold religious beliefs differing from the state’s preferred views. Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Carson v. Makin emphasizing that the government cannot exclude families from public benefits due to their choice of religious education, Vermont persists in discriminatory practices.

Mid Vermont Christian, a faith-based pre-K-12 school located in Quechee, faces challenges on multiple fronts. Vermont’s Agency of Education refused to designate it as an approved independent school based on its religious beliefs, rendering the school ineligible for the state’s Town Tuitioning Program. This program financially supports students residing in districts without public high schools to attend an approved private school of their choice.

Furthermore, the Vermont Principals’ Association ejected Mid Vermont Christian from the state’s athletic association due to the school’s adherence to its own athletic program aligned with its religious beliefs about sexuality and gender. The association’s recent policy changes allowing biological males to participate in girls’ sports clash with Mid Vermont Christian’s convictions, leading to an impasse. The school’s exclusion from athletic competitions extends to academic events, including the Geo-Bee, Science and Math Fair, and Debate and Forensics League.

ADF Legal Counsel Jake Reed emphasizes the tangible impact on students, noting that they are missing out on tuition reimbursement and being excluded from sports and academic competitions. Reed contends that Vermont’s education agency and sports association are engaging in unconstitutional discrimination by demanding that the Christian school abandon its religious beliefs to receive public funds and compete in sports.

This legal battle comes on the heels of ADF attorneys favorably settling two lawsuits in December 2022, representing families and the Diocese of Burlington, who challenged state discrimination against students attending religious schools. Despite the settlement, Vermont officials are accused of persisting in discriminatory practices.

The lawsuit, named Mid Vermont Christian School v. Bouchey, has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, with Michael Tierney and Gretchen Wade serving as local counsel in the case. The outcome of this case could have broad implications for the protection of religious freedom and equal access to public benefits in Vermont.

Danielle Dolin is a prolific writer and serves as the Managing Editor at the Christian News Journal. A dedicated mother of four daughters, she calls Southern Arizona home. Danielle’s passion for journalism extends beyond her professional role; she imparts her knowledge to homeschool students as a dedicated teacher. In her cherished moments of respite, you can find her engrossed in the pages of books or engaged in the world of video games. Her multifaceted life is a testament to her commitment to family, education, and her unwavering love for storytelling.

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