Savannah Hulsey Pointer, FISM News
A Massachusetts school board is being accused of violating state and federal law by denying the rights of a new private Christian school to open due to their religious standards about sexuality and evolution.
According to a report by Christian Headlines Massachusetts state law requires that all private schools be approved by the local public school district, something that the Somerville Public School Committee in Somerville, Massachusetts was unwilling to do for the Real Life Learning Center.
Somerville Public School Committee approved a report earlier this year that claimed the school “does not meet the criteria” for approval and among other things, the report faulted the school’s beliefs on sexuality and evolution.
“The school’s position on homosexuality and creationism make[s] it difficult to see how a thorough science and health curriculum is possible,” the report sent to the school about their denial said. “The school’s approach to student services and counseling appears to devalue evidence-based psychology and its emphasis on approaches rooted in the belief that mental illness is caused by sin and demons is unscientific and harmful … Overall, the school was entirely contrary to the values of SPS and the idea of educating the whole child as being inclusive.”
A committee member allegedly said it was the “morally right thing to do” to block the application.
A case is being brought against the school committee by First Liberty Institute on behalf of Real Life Learning Center, part of which is an 11-page letter to the school district on March 30 alleging that the district is violating state laws and the U.S. Constitution with their denial of the school’s approval.
The letter refuted the school board’s claims saying, “Regarding the Subcommittee’s alleged secular reasons for concluding that RLLC does not meet the criteria for operating a private school under Massachusetts law, such allegations are contrary to the materials submitted by RLLC or involve considerations that are irrelevant to the Committee’s role in considering a private school application.
“In sum, RLLC’s application satisfies all criteria under Massachusetts law to operate as a private school. Any contrary conclusion by the Committee would be an unreasonable exercise of the Committee’s limited authority. The concerns articulated by the Subcommittee are either inaccurate, irrelevant, or represent an effort to impose standards that are ‘so pervasive and all- encompassing that total compliance with each and every standard by a non-public school would effectively eradicate the distinction between public and non-public education,’ which courts have found to be unlawful…
“Indeed, given the extensive materials RLLC has provided, Vida Real is now concerned that the true reason the Committee is withholding its approval is hostility to Vida Real’s religious beliefs and predominant racial makeup.”
According to Christian Headlines, deputy general counsel at First Liberty, Justin Butterfield, said, “The hostility displayed by the Somerville Public School Committee is outrageous. The government cannot ban a religious school because they disagree with its religious beliefs. Doing so violates federal constitutional and statutory law.”