Christian Academy Files Lawsuit After State Says It Cannot Participate In Its Pre-K Program

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A Christian preschool is suing Colorado education officials for refusing to allow them access to a universal preschool program because of their religious beliefs about gender and sexuality.

The Darren Patterson Christian Academy applied to Colorado’s new Universal Preschool Program (CUPP) for the 2023 school year and was initially approved before the July 1 deadline, but the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) is refusing to allow the school to participate unless they agree to not share their faith, according to the lawsuit. In response, the school filed a lawsuit with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Tuesday against Executive Director of the CDEC Lisa Roy and Director of CUPP Dawn Odean for allegedly attempting to violate the school’s religious beliefs under the First Amendment. (RELATED: Court Rules Against Attempt To Force Religious Company To Violate Beliefs On Sexuality)

“[T]he Colorado Department of Early Childhood is requiring religious preschools like Darren Patterson Christian Academy to forgo their religious character, beliefs, and exercise to participate in UPK,” the lawsuit reads. “So even though the school welcomes all families and children, these provisions would force it to hire employees who do not share its faith and to alter internal rules and policies that are based on the school’s religious beliefs about sexuality and gender, including those that relate to restroom usage, pronouns, dress codes, and student housing during school expeditions and field trips.”

DURHAM, NC - MAY 11: A gender neutral sign is posted outside a bathrooms at Oval Park Grill on May 11, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 (HB2) that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

DURHAM, NC – MAY 11: A gender-neutral sign is posted outside a bathroom at Oval Park Grill on May 11, 2016, in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law in April 2022 that created the new program to ensure that “every 4-year-old in the state” receives “at least 15 hours per week of state-funded preschool services for the upcoming school year,” according to the lawsuit.

The academy currently provides a biblically-based education, instructing students in the way of the Christian faith, and also asks employees to sign a “Lifestyle statement,” requiring them to be a “born-again Christian” and adhere to traditional views on marriage and sexuality, according to the lawsuit. As a result, the school was barred from accessing the state’s new program and the department declined to allow for a religious exemption because the school is not located in a house of worship.

The lawsuit requests that the court declare that the program’s anti-discrimination provisions violate the academy’s First Amendment rights.

“The Constitution is clear: The government may not deny participation in a public program simply due to a school’s internal religious exercise,” ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus said in a press release. “The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed this principle in 2017, 2020, and 2022. Colorado officials are violating the school’s First Amendment rights by forcing it to abandon its religious beliefs—the reason why parents choose to send their kids to the school—to receive critical state funding.”

ADF and the CDEC and CUPP did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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