Faith-Based Homeschoolers Under Attack in Left-Leaning States: Lawsuit

Families contend that California school policies are biased against families who choose faith-based curricula.
Faith-Based Homeschoolers Under Attack in Left-Leaning States: Lawsuit
The California Department of Education in Sacramento on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Matthew Lysiak

A group of Christian homeschooling parents in California who claim they are being discriminated against for their religious beliefs have filed a lawsuit that could set a precedent for educational freedom in America.

David Hacker, vice president of litigation at First Liberty Institute, told The Epoch Times that this lawsuit was an important stand for religious freedom and equal rights.

“What is at stake is making sure that the government isn’t discriminating against families just because of their religious beliefs,” said Mr. Hacker. “Essentially the California Department of Education is saying that anyone can participate in our public charter system so long as you aren’t religious.

“Our lawsuit hopes to change that to make sure the state respects religious views in the classroom in the same way they respect other views.”

The federal lawsuit was filed earlier this month by First Liberty Institute along with King & Spalding LLP on behalf of several parents. It challenges California school policies, claiming they are biased against families who choose faith-based curricula in charter schools and in parent-directed homeschool programs.

“These schools discriminate against parents who seek to educate their children in accordance with their faith, even if that faith-based education fully satisfies state educational standards,” the complaint reads.

“In particular, these schools have restricted parents’ use of funds to purchase curricula and other instructional materials on the basis of religion and refused to award or accept credit for student work samples that derive from faith-based curricula or reflect religious perspectives.”

A homeschooled child works on a project. (Shutterstock)
A homeschooled child works on a project. (Shutterstock)

In denying funds and credit for faith-based curricula, school officials cite a state law that prohibits the teaching of “sectarian or denominational doctrine.”

The law is at odds with the constitutional rights of Christian families, according to the lawsuit.

“Application of state law to exclude faith-based homeschooling from an otherwise generally available public benefit for homeschooling violates well-established principles prohibiting discrimination against religious viewpoints under the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment,” the complaint asserts.

The federal lawsuit rekindles an ongoing debate over the role of religion in education, the rights of homeschooling families, and the balance between religious freedom and state regulations.

After the state of Maine was sued for refusing to subsidize private schools with a religious curriculum even if the students otherwise met all applicable state laws, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with faith-based families in its June 2022 ruling in Carson v. Makin.

Writing for the 6-3 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts declared that no state could “withhold otherwise available public benefits from religious organizations” simply because they are religious.

Dissent from the Left

The leftward flank of the Supreme Court protested, calling the majority opinion a violation of the First Amendment, which forbids the government from establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent that the court’s conservative majority “continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build … Today, the court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation.

“In just a few years, the Court has upended constitutional doctrine,” the justice continued, “shifting from a rule that permits States to decline to fund religious organizations to one that requires States in many circumstances to subsidize religious indoctrination with taxpayer dollars.”

Faith-based families say that regardless of the controversy, the Supreme Court ruling has become the law of the land and must be adhered to by all states.

“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,” Ethan Davis, partner at King & Spalding, said in a release.
“Religious families are entitled to the same educational benefits as everyone else.”

Ongoing Resistance

Home School Legal Defense Association senior attorney T.J. Schmidt told The Epoch Times that cases of discrimination against faith-based parents seeking alternative education have continued despite the Supreme Court decision. This makes it increasingly important for parents to know their rights, he said.

“Just about all states have subject requirements, and in those states when you’re homeschooling privately you’re free to choose the curriculum you want, whether that be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or any other religious beliefs that parents feel are important to pass along to their children,” said Mr. Schmidt.

The issue of parental rights in education has become especially contentious in many left-leaning states, including New York, where faith-based parents often face more resistance, according to Mr. Schmidt.

“In New York, private, homeschooling parents have to list textbooks and we get districts that push back and tell parents they can’t use a study of religions in their history program,” said Mr. Schmidt.

“We have seen cases where parents attempting to include a religious text in a history curriculum were told no by the district.”

While the battle over faith-based education is expected to continue, a decision in the California case affirming the rights of Christian parents would go a long way toward securing religious and educational freedom for all Americans, according to First Liberty’s Mr. Hacker.

“This lawsuit is important to make sure that religious families, no matter what the denomination, are not discriminated against,” agreed Mr. Schmidt.

“The law is clear: Faith-based families have the same rights as anyone else.”

Matthew Lysiak is a nationally recognized journalist and author of “Newtown” (Simon and Schuster), “Breakthrough” (Harper Collins), and “The Drudge Revolution.” The story of his family is the subject of the series “Home Before Dark” which premiered April 3 on Apple TV Plus.
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