In its school handbook, the Bethel Christian Academy affirms its commitment to what it considers “biblical” ideas of marriage and sex, and states that “faculty, staff, and students are required to identify with, dress in accordance with, and use the facilities associated with their biological gender.” Maryland education officials have decided that this is grounds to exclude the school from the state’s educational voucher program, which allows students to use public funds to defray the cost of private school. Inez Feltscher Stepman comments:
Currently, Maryland . . . offers vouchers that average just over $2,000 to low-income students attending private schools of their families’ choice. More than 3,000 children in the state rely on the program to enroll in the schools their parents have deemed best. While state law prohibits participating schools from discriminating based on sexual orientation or “gender identity,” it also states that “nothing herein shall require any school or institution to adopt any rule, regulation, or policy that conflicts with its religious or moral teachings.” There is also a strong argument that discriminating against religious organizations’ participation in public programs violates their First Amendment religious-liberty rights.
Most private schools participating in the nation’s patchwork of school-choice programs are religiously affiliated. Requiring them to drop their religious missions would not only eject hundreds of thousands of mostly low-income students from schools where they are often thriving; it would also homogenize the options available to parents in a way that thwarts the purpose of school choice.
[F]orcing students from all families into the same rigid school system—one that increasingly teaches only a left-wing, secular-humanist perspective—causes strife between neighbors. Just this year, more than 80 clashes made the news over what students in public schools are being taught; many of the conflicts reflected differing religious, moral, or political values. . . . Parents—not partisan politicians or discriminatory bureaucrats—should have the right and responsibility of deciding what their children learn and which values will shape them into adults.