News (USA)

Catholic preschools sue to get state money while banning kids of same-sex couples

A priest counting money
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The Denver Catholic Archdiocese is suing Colorado’s universal preschool program over the right to exclude LGBTQ+ people since they say it violates their religious beliefs to accept the children of same-sex couples and trans people.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, alleges that the Colorado Department of Early Childhood’s requirement that all preschool providers participating in the state’s new Universal Preschool Program “accept any applicant without regard to a student or family’s religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity” directly conflicts with the Archdiocese’s “religious beliefs and their religious obligations as entities that carry out the Catholic Church’s mission of Catholic education in northern Colorado.”

The Archdiocese, which filed the lawsuit along with two Colorado parishes, St. Mary Catholic Parish in Littleton and St. Bernadette Catholic Parish in Lakewood, claims that the nondiscrimination requirements violate their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and exclude the parishes from the state’s Universal Preschool Program.

Signed into law last year, the program was established to provide Colorado families with 15 hours of state-funded preschool per week, according to The Denver Post.

“Any providers who do not participate in the UPK program will be severely disadvantaged since they will be forced to charge significantly higher prices than the participating programs—both secular and religious—which aren’t religiously barred from participating in the UPK program,” the lawsuit argues.

The Archdiocese admits that it instructs all Catholic schools to take into consideration “whether a family or child seeking placement in their schools has identified as LGBTQ, is in a same-sex relationship, or has adopted a gender identity different from his or her biological sex,” in accordance with Catholic beliefs but argues that the “Plaintiffs do not believe adhering to these beliefs constitutes discrimination.”

As USA Today notes, the Denver Archdiocese’s 2019 “Guidance for Issues Concerning the Human Person and Sexual Identity” recommends that Catholic schools deny enrollment to transgender students and treat parents in same-sex relationships differently than heterosexual parents.

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against the non-discrimination requirements, allowing the Archdiocese to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people while receiving state funds.

In a statement, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’s (D) office said it was “unfortunate to see different groups of adults attempting to co-opt preschool for themselves, perhaps because they want to not allow gay parents to send their kids to preschool.”

“The voters were clear on their support for parent choice and a universal, mixed delivery system that is independently run, that doesn’t discriminate against anyone and offers free preschool to every child no matter who their parents are.”

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