Recently, a private religious school in Vermont has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming religious discrimination. The school faced a ban from participating in all state-run athletics this year after it refused to compete against a team with a transgender player.
The Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit last week on behalf of the Mid Vermont Christian School in Quechee, Vermont. According to the lawsuit, the state disallowed the pupils from participating in state competitions and a state tuition scheme due to their religious convictions.
In February 2023, the girls’ basketball team of Mid Vermont Christian School (MVCS) made headlines for forfeiting a game against Long Trail School. The reason? Long Trail School had a transgender student on their roster.
According to the Burlington Free Press, MCVS Head Coach Vicky Fogg stated, “We believe playing against an opponent with a biological male jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players.”
Following this decision, the Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA), which monitors school-based competitions, voted to withdraw MVCS’s membership. The Association identified a violation of its gender identification policy. They, however, highlighted the ban on discrimination “based on a student’s actual or perceived sex and gender.”
In a recent statement, the Alliance Defending Freedom highlighted that MVCS accuses the Vermont State Board of Education of religious discrimination. This accusation is rooted in actions taken by the Board in May 2022. This was where rules were established under the Vermont Public Accommodations Act and Fair Employment Practices Act.
However, the purpose of these regulations is to stop taxpayer-funded private or independent schools from discriminating against pupils based on their sexual orientation.
According to the lawsuit, families wishing to send their kids to Mid Vermont Christian School were allegedly refused taxpayer-funded vouchers. These vouchers allow students to attend neighboring public, private, or independent schools. They are designed for families living in towns without public schools.
According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, MVCS filed a religious exemption due to worries that new requirements will compel the institution to violate its convictions. The exemption request is based on probable problems with permitting males into female facilities, changes to marriage and dress code standards, and hiring practices consistent with the school’s religious stance.
Mid Vermont Christian School was consequently denied program approval. According to the lawsuit, two school boards that first delivered tuition checks to kids at the Christian school in September 2023 demanded the cash returned the following month after realizing that the school was not certified as an independent school under the program.
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The Alliance Defending Freedom cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a comparable tuition help scheme in Maine in their complaint. In June of the previous year, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not prohibit the use of public monies for religious education schools.
While the Alliance Defending Freedom draws parallels, constitutional experts warn that the Vermont case may differ slightly from the Maine decision.
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