The state of Maryland is imposing its view of marriage on a Christian school and preventing the school’s most vulnerable students from getting the funding they need to attend.
Bethel Christian Academy is a pre-K to eighth grade Christian school in Savage, Maryland, about 30 minutes outside of Baltimore. A ministry of Bethel Assembly of God, Bethel’s mission is to help students thrive both academically and spiritually. It offers an excellent and caring environment of around 280 students.
Bethel has a heart for students from economically disadvantaged families. Over 25% of Bethel students receive some form of financial aid.
Some families are only able to afford Bethel because of its participation in Maryland’s BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today) program. BOOST is a school voucher program for low-income students that allows these students to attend private schools like Bethel that they otherwise could not afford.
Just a few weeks before the 2018 school year began, Maryland informed parents that Bethel was no longer eligible to participate in BOOST.
It wasn’t because Bethel wasn’t meeting academic standards. Bethel has been providing excellent education for over 35 years. And it wasn’t because Bethel failed to meet the state’s requirements. Bethel complied with every aspect of Maryland’s voucher program requirement since the school began participating in BOOST in 2016.
Maryland pulled its BOOST funds from Bethel because of its religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
As a Christian school, Bethel believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that sexual intimacy is reserved to such marriages. Just because Bethel mentioned these beliefs in its student handbook, Maryland cut Bethel from its BOOST program. Worse—the state demanded that Bethel pay back over $100,000 it used to educate BOOST students in the previous years!
The government can’t discriminate against religious schools simply because it dislikes their religious beliefs.
This is blatant hostility toward Bethel’s religious views—hostility that is clearly in violation of the First Amendment. Not only that, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled twice—once in Obergefell and again in Masterpiece—that the government must respect the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
That’s why, on June 24, 2019, Bethel filed a lawsuit against Maryland. And last week, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argued Bethel’s case in federal court.
Please pray for this important case. Government hostility toward religion is wrong, illegal, and has no place in our society—especially when it prevents children from getting the education they deserve.