Skip to main content

Federal Court: CO Christian School Can Get State Funds, Still Hire Believers

Share This article

A federal court has ruled it will allow Darren Patterson Christian Academy to participate in Colorado's universal preschool program while maintaining its religious beliefs even though the school is engaged in a legal battle with the state. 

In its 40-page decision granting the school's request for a preliminary injunction, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado also denied the state's motion to dismiss the case.

"If {Colorado officials} enforce the anti-discrimination provisions against {Darren Patterson Christian Academy }—which they have left open the door to do—that will likely violate {the school's} First Amendment rights," the court wrote in its opinion in Darren Patterson Christian Academy v. Roy. "Indeed, exclusion of a preschool is inherently anti-universal, and denying participation based on one's protected beliefs or speech is not equitable."

slider img 2As CBN's Faithwire reported in July, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys representing the Christian school filed a lawsuit in June against state officials for demanding the school surrender its religious beliefs to participate in the state's program. 

Located in Buena Vista, the school applied for and obtained approval to participate in Colorado's new universal preschool program, which guarantees every four-year-old in the state at least 15 hours per week of state-funded preschool services per school year. The school welcomes all families and children—accepting any child who meets its enrollment criteria regardless of the religious beliefs or background of the child or the child's family, the ADF said in a press release. 

However, the Colorado Department of Early Childhood, mandated that for the school to participate in the program and receive critical state funding, it must hire employees who do not share its faith. In addition, the school must alter internal rules and policies that are based on the school's religious beliefs about sexuality and gender—including those that relate to restroom usage, pronouns, dress codes, and student housing during expeditions and field trips, according to the ADF. 

To protect its ability to participate in the program without compromising its religious beliefs, the school requested an exemption last May, but the department denied that request, the nonprofit law firm said. 

"The government cannot force religious schools to abandon their beliefs and exercise to participate in a public benefit program that everyone else can access," ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus said in a statement. 

"The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed this constitutional principle multiple times, most recently last year, and now thankfully, so has this court. Darren Patterson Christian Academy has been serving Chaffee County families for over 40 years. Yet Colorado officials tried to force it to abandon its religious beliefs—the reason why parents choose to send their kids to the school—to receive critical state funding. That is a violation of the school's First Amendment rights," the statement continued.  

Galus told CBN's Faithwire that the school serves "students and families of all faiths, in all backgrounds" and "everyone who walks through." Still, the school makes it clear it "provides a Christian education from a biblical worldview." Hiring teachers and staff who reflect this reality is key.

"The school's asking for no different treatment than every other business {and} every other organization," Galus said. "Every secular business and organization expects its employees to share its vision and values, and that's all that Darren Patterson Christian Academy is trying to do."

***Please sign up for CBN Newsletters and download the CBN News app to ensure you keep receiving the latest news.***

Share This article

About The Author


CBN News is a national/international, nonprofit news organization that provides programming 24 hours a day by cable, satellite and the Internet. Staffed by a group of acclaimed news professionals, CBN News delivers stories to over a million viewers each day without a specific agenda. With its headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va., CBN News has bureaus in Washington D.C., Jerusalem, and elsewhere around the world. What began as a segment on CBN's flagship program, The 700 Club, in the early 1980s, CBN News has since expanded into a multimedia news organization that offers today's news headlines