Boston-area school board accused of ‘blatant religious discrimination’ after blocking church’s private school

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Attorneys for a Hispanic church in the Boston area are accusing a local school board of blatant religious discrimination after being attacked by members over its stance on creation and sexuality and then denying their application to form a private school.

“It is illegal and unconstitutional for city officials to question the religious beliefs of Vida Real, let alone use those beliefs to stop the church from opening a school,” Andrew Beckwith, who is the president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, proclaimed in a statement given to Fox News Digital. “This is blatant religious discrimination. It’s time for Somerville officials to stop treating Vida Real unfairly and allow it to pursue the opening of a school.”

“The hostility displayed by the Somerville Public School Committee is outrageous,” Justin Butterfield, who is the deputy general counsel at First Liberty, also said in the statement. “The government cannot ban a religious school because they disagree with its religious beliefs. Doing so violates federal constitutional and statutory law.”

The church is now threatening to sue the school board if it does not relent on the application.

A letter was sent out on Thursday from the First Liberty Institute and the Massachusetts Family Institute urging Somerville Superintendent Mary Skipper and the Somerville Public School Committee to reconsider their position on the matter and permit Vida Real Church to open a private school called the Real Life Learning Center (RLLC). The church is comprised of mostly Hispanic immigrants and it is unknown if race will be brought into the suit as well as religious discrimination.

This has been going on since Sept. 2021 with the school board blocking the application and members expressing their opposition to the church’s beliefs.

Vida Real submitted a detailed application for consideration in Sept. 2021. Numerous stumbling blocks were put forth and the consideration of the application was delayed for months. The school board allegedly complained that the application was incomplete. The church says that’s just not true. The board also sent church officials 35 “hostile” questions. Included in them were questions on whether the school could competently instruct students due to its religious beliefs. A committee report reflected that concern.

“The school’s position on homosexuality and creationism make it difficult to see how a thorough science and health curriculum is possible,” the document reportedly contended. “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.”

The letter quotes board member Sara Dion as saying that denying the application was the “morally right thing to do,” and that spending money to stop or delay the school’s opening would be “well worth it.”

“The Committee’s hostility against Vida Real’s religious beliefs violates both Massachusetts law and the First Amendment,” the letter charges. “We write to you now in hopes that the Committee’s recent conduct stems from a misunderstanding of the law and the Committee’s role in evaluating private school applications from religious schools like RLLC. Based upon the relevant law, RLLC satisfied all relevant criteria for obtaining Committee approval.”

The committee was bluntly warned by the letter that if the application is not approved by April 8 or if it is rejected, the church “will pursue all available legal options.”

This same church claimed they were the victim of police harassment in March 2021 over COVID practices, according to First Liberty. Police officers interrupted the church’s services in Medford, Massachusetts after a Medford public health official demanded an investigation into whether they had violated COVID capacity restrictions. Local officials later apologized for the incident.


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