A federal judge ruled Saturday that Colorado can’t exclude a Christian school from the state’s universal preschool program based on its religious beliefs.
Darren Patterson Christian Academy filed a lawsuit in June after state officials said participation in the universal preschool program required hiring employees who are not Christians and changing a school policy requiring the use of bathrooms and pronouns that correspond with biological sex. U.S. District Judge Daniel Domenico issued a preliminary injunction Saturday blocking the state from excluding the school from the program, which provides four-year-olds and some other children in the state with a minimum of 15 free hours of free preschool a week, based on “protected beliefs.”
“Indeed, exclusion of a preschool is inherently anti-universal, and denying participation based on one’s protected beliefs or speech is not equitable,” Domenico, a Trump appointee, wrote. (RELATED: Catholic Preschools Sue State Officials Over Law Barring Them From Funding Program)
The state’s Universal Preschool Program (UPK), signed into law by Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in 2022, launched during the 2023 school year. The Colorado Department of Early Childhood requires program participants to agree they will not discriminate on the basis of categories like religion, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
A federal court granted an injunction allowing Darren Patterson Christian Academy to participate in CO’s universal pre-K program while our lawsuit continues.
We’re grateful the court protected the school’s ability to participate without compromising its religious beliefs.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) October 23, 2023
“The Constitution is clear: The government may not deny participation in a public program simply due to a school’s internal religious exercise,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus in a statement.
Two Catholic schools also filed a lawsuit in August against the department for allegedly excluding them from the program.
The Colorado Department of Early Childhood and UPK did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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