A group of Christian parents is suing California schools for religious discrimination after they were banned from including, and in one instance expelled for using, a faith-based curriculum in a publicly funded homeschooling program.
According to a complaint filed by lawyers at the First Liberty law firm, a group of five parents enrolled children in tuition-free charter schools — Blue Ridge Academy in Southern California and Visions of Education in Northern California — that give the option for “independent study” curated by parents.
The schools “tout” their commitment to “individualized and inclusive learning” through these programs, but with one “glaring exception” — faith-based learning material, a lawsuit says. The families, according to the suit, wanted to use high-quality curricula that comported with state standards but that also reflected a faith-based worldview but were denied. One family was even expelled.
“Our clients simply want to be able to choose curricula that fits their families’ needs without facing religious discrimination,” Justin Butterfield, deputy general counsel for First Liberty said.
“These families love their charter schools and the opportunities those schools provide for families to educate their children in a way that fits the families’ needs.”
According to the complaint, when the parents complained to the schools when they weren’t allowed to use the educational material of their choice, the school’s cited a state law that prohibits the teaching of “sectarian and denominational doctrine.”
The teachers used that defense to deny credit and accept sample work from the students from any faith-based curricula or any that reflect religious perspectives.
But the lawyers for the students say that religious discrimination is unconstitutional under federal law.
“As the Supreme Court made clear last year in Carson v. Makin, when the government provides a benefit, like parent-directed educational funding, it cannot exclude families just because they choose to use that benefit for a religious education,” said Ethan Davis, a partner at King & Spalding, who is also leading the litigation.
That case said that the state of Maine cannot exclude students who attend religious schools from a government program for which they are otherwise qualified because doing so would violate the Free Exercise Clause.
“Religious families are entitled to the same educational benefits as everyone else,” Davis said.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
Fox News Digital reached out to Blue Ridge Academy and Visions of Education but didn’t hear back in time for publication.