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By Joshua Gill
A Christian school defended its religious admissions policies after Democrats labeled it as a school that discriminates against LGBT students during Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ congressional hearing.
The Lighthouse Christian Academy of Bloomington, Ind. has been the center of the debate about school choice ever since Senate Democrats claimed that the school discriminated against LGBT students, according to an AP report. Democrats used the school as an example in their arguments against DeVos over whether or not religious schools like Lighthouse should receive money from government vouchers if they are perceived to have discriminatory policies.
Lighthouse’s admissions brochure lists several lifestyle behaviors they say are prohibited according to the Bible. The school reserves the right to deny admission to any student whose home life includes, among other things:
- Heterosexual activity outside of one man-one-woman marriage. For example, premarital sex, cohabitation, or adultery (John 8:1-11; I Corinthians 6:9-20; Hebrews 13:4);
- Homosexual or bisexual activity or any form of sexual immorality (Romans 1:21-27; I Corinthians 6:9-20);
- Practicing alternate gender identity or any other identity or behavior that violates God’s ordained distinctions between the two sexes, male and female (Genesis 1:26-27; Deuteronomy 22:5);
Lighthouse claims that they have never denied admission to a student based on sexual orientation, although they stand by their right to operate according to their policies.
Thirty states, including Indiana, use some form of tax funds for school choice programs. None of those states that use vouchers prohibit admissions policies that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a study by Suzanne Eckes, a professor at Indiana University.
Legal and policy experts across the country defended Lighthouse’s right to operate according to its stated religious beliefs, including the school’s attorney and spokesman Brian Bailey.
“Parents are free to choose which school best comports with their religious convictions,” Bailey said. “For a real choice and thus real liberty to exist, the government may not impose its own orthodoxy and homogenize all schools to conform to politically correct attitudes and ideologies.”
Eckes argued that schools that receive vouchers should not be allowed to have admissions policies like those of Lighthouse and cited the federal protections afforded to racial minorities, while Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, said that private schools should not receive government funds at all on the basis that private schools can choose to deny admission to students.
Lindsey Burke, director of the Heritage Foundation’s education policy studies, said that Lighthouse’s policies have no parallel to racial discrimination.
“Racism was based on identity and skin color and had no reasonable basis,” Burke said. “This is about whether a student, a family is going to live out their communal beliefs of the school that they have chosen to attend. These are intentional communities that are built upon a moral code that they have decided on.”
As for the left’s claim that private schools are prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation, Dick Komer, senior attorney with Institute for Justice, said that simply isn’t the case.
“If the people who are grilling DeVos believe that sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity, then they should propose amendments to the statues that they have written and given her to enforce,” Komer said. “The Congress is supposed to write the law, the agency is supposed to administer what Congress has given them. And Congress hasn’t given it to them.”