September 2019 Church & State Magazine - September 2019

Maryland Private School Demands Place In Voucher Program

  Rob Boston

A private religious school in Maryland has filed a federal lawsuit demanding that it be permitted to take part in the state’s private school voucher program, despite the institution’s discriminatory policies.

Bethel Christian Academy in Savage had been taking part in the state’s voucher program but was removed after education officials found out that the school discriminates against LGBTQ people, reported the Baltimore Sun.

Maryland’s voucher program, called BOOST, has a budget of $7 million per year. It began in the 2016-17 school year and is aimed at low-income students. Bethel took part for a year, but was kicked out and ordered to return more than $100,000 in taxpayer funds. Several other schools with discriminatory policies were also removed from the program at the same time.

Officials at the school maintain that they are being punished for their religious beliefs. They’re being represented in court by Alliance Defending Freedom, a large Religious Right legal group.

One state lawmaker, Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Democrat who represents Baltimore, said she believes some legislators would shut the program down rather than allow schools that discriminate to take part.

“If they were to win and it opened up the door to discrimination, I think you would find a strong movement in the legislature to end BOOST,” McIntosh told the Sun. “We are just not going to use tax dollars to discriminate against anyone.” (Bethel Ministries v. Salmon)

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