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AZ School Board That Rejected Christian Teachers Pays Up to Avoid Lawsuit

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A Phoenix-area school district has agreed to pay $25,000 to Arizona Christian University (ACU) after permanently cutting ties with the university because of its religious beliefs.

Washington Elementary School District has now agreed to pay attorneys' fees and reinstate its student-teacher partnership program with ACU after the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit in March.

As CBN News reported, Arizona Christian University and the Washington Elementary School District in the Phoenix and Glendale areas of Arizona had an 11-year partnership where ACU students could student-teach in the district's public schools.


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But the relationship ended earlier this year when the school board cut ties because of the university's biblical beliefs.

"By discriminating against Arizona Christian University and denying it an opportunity to participate in the student-teacher program because of its religious status and beliefs, the school district was in blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution, not to mention state law that protects ACU's religious freedom," ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation David Cortman stated in a news release.

In February, the five-member school board voted unanimously to end its relationship with the school because it deemed the university's student-teachers Christian faith as a threat to LGBTQ students.

Washington Elementary District School Board Member Tamillia Valenzuela, who identifies as a "bilingual, disabled, neurodivergent queer black Latina", argued that although she supports religious freedom she takes issue with the school's mission statement.

"While I full-heartedly believe in the religious freedom and people being able to practice whatever faith that they have, I had some concerns regarding looking at this particular institution," Valenzuela said in February 2023. "My concern, [is] when I go to Arizona Christian University's website, (they are) 'committed to Jesus Christ, accomplishing his will and advancements on earth as in Heaven.'"

She continued, "How does that hold space for people of other faiths? How does that hold space for our members of the LGBT community? How does that space for people who think differently and do not have the same beliefs."

Other members agreed with Valenzuela, with one board member saying its relationship with ACU was an embarrassment.

ADF represented the university in a lawsuit against the school district to protect ACU's freedom of speech and religion. 

Last week, Washington Elementary School District agreed to settle and allow ACU students to teach in the district once again.

"At a time when a critical shortage of qualified, caring teachers exists, the Washington Elementary School District board did the right thing by prioritizing the needs of elementary school children and agreeing to partner once again with ACU's student-teachers," Cortman stated.

The district has also agreed to allow the ADF to monitor agreement renewals to ensure the district takes no discriminatory action in the future.
"This is a complete vindication of the rights of our students to be able to participate as student-teachers in a public school district without fear of religious discrimination," said ACU President Len Munsil. "We obtained everything we wanted in this new agreement, without any sacrifice or compromise to our beliefs and our university's religious purpose."

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.