Equal Education: N.C. Christian School Rejects Vouchers After Discrimination Fight

Myrtle Grove Christian School had been approved to receive funds through the state’s new “Opportunity Scholarship” program, but under its ‘Biblical morality policy,’ it refuses admission to LGBT students and even the straight children of LGBT parents.

A North Carolina private school will refuse voucher money after a public outcry over its anti-gay policies. Myrtle Grove Christian School had been approved to receive funds through the state’s new “Opportunity Scholarship” program, but under its ‘Biblical morality policy,’ it refuses admission to LGBT students and even the straight children of LGBT parents.

Critics called it state-funded discrimination.

After gay rights groups staged protests over Myrtle Grove’s eligibility for the funds, the school finally bowed to public pressure and opted out of the voucher program.

In a letter to parents, headmaster Stacey Miller wrote, “While we are grateful that this new program will enable more parents in North Carolina to make the school choices that they believe are best for their children, Myrtle Grove will continue to make scholarship opportunities available solely through private funding sources.”

The move spares North Carolina taxpayers from funding the school’s anti-gay bias. But although Myrtle Grove will no longer accept vouchers, hundreds of sectarian private schools with policies just like Myrtle Grove’s are still eligible to receive taxpayer dollars in North Carolina and other states. It’s a common problem for voucher programs.

Georgia’s voucher program, for example, found itself under intense public scrutiny earlier this year, after a report from the Southern Education Foundation (SEF) revealed that many of the state’s religious voucher schools had explicitly discriminatory policies against gay students and families. According to SEF, at least 115 schools had anti-gay policies—and the real number is likely higher.

That means that in Georgia alone, thousands of students are affected by these policies. “These anti-gay policies and practices among tax-supported schools do far more than condemn gay students for who they are,” the report reads. “They affirmatively deny gay students (and often other students who may openly tolerate or defend gay students) admission to educational institutions receiving public funds.”

Sectarian schools often defend these policies with scriptural references. Cumberland Christian Academy cites1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19, and Ephesians 5:3 in its anti-gay policy. And Hebron Christian Academy’s policy reveals another motivation. Its handbook reads, “It is the goal of HCA that each employee and student will display conduct which will cause others to want to know Jesus Christ in a personal relationship.”

Discrimination, proselytization—it’s all funded directly by Georgia taxpayers in the name of “school choice.” And voucher advocates have made it difficult to gauge the real scale of the problem.

In its coverage of the SEF report, The New York Times stated, “There is little state oversight of those organizations. The Georgia legislature in 2011 tightened the rules regarding how much information about the program the Department of Revenue, which keeps track of the money, can make public.”

Although it might be difficult to track exactly how many voucher schools practice anti-gay discrimination, North Carolina’s decision to award voucher funds to Myrtle Grove, is evidence that this constitutional violation isn’t unique to Georgia’s voucher program.

The school’s rejection of voucher funds is certainly a victory, but a small one. Publicly-funded discrimination is a systemic problem, and it won’t be resolved as long as sectarian schools are still allowed to draw on the public purse.

Gay rights groups like Equality NC have vowed to continue the fight against anti-gay voucher schools. At Americans United, we hope they do. As long as sectarian schools rely on vouchers, they have to abide by the same laws governing any publicly funded institution.

That means equal treatment for LGBT students.