Fear over government regulations trumping Christian teachings, along with the Obama administrations’ transgender bathroom mandate sweeping across America’s schools, is causing a state-funded Christian preschool in Florida to shut its doors for good at the end of the semester in May.
School officials are wary that that the way the government has cracked down over the years on Christianity with its secular worldview dominating curricula and campus policies, their faculty and staff will soon be forced to compromise their Christian teachings – and even require them to provide bathroom accommodations for children who consider themselves to be “transgender.”
Fleeing the secular tide
After serving the community in Pensacola, Florida, for more than four decades, Gateway Christian Preschool has decided to end its program out of fears that the state funding it receives will obligate it to enforce unbiblical standards that it is not prepared to administer.
Gateway Christian Preschool Director Barbara Deem says that the final decision to close was reached by the elders at Gateway Church of Christ, who established the preschool in the 1970s as an outreach ministry. She maintained that a consensus was made that the preschool’s participation in the state-funded Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) subsidy program could very likely pose problems in the near future and present itself as a “liability” to the church.
For more than a decade, state funding has helped keep the school afloat financially.
“In the state of Florida, 4-year-olds who qualify can receive state funding to offset the costs of pre-kindergarten classes that prepare them for kindergarten through the state's VPK program,” The Christian Post (CP) reported. “Gateway Christian Preschool has been an active participant since the program's inception in 2005.”
Approximately 60 percent of the preschool’s enrollment is funded by the VPK program, which amounts to about $2,300 per 4-year-old student annually, with parents paying for the remaining 40 percent of children in attendance – who range from 1 to 3 years of age.
Knowing the cost …
Deem maintains that the government funding was taken with a grain of salt.
"There has always been some concern among a lot of people with taking any kind of government dollars as to whether or not the people could have a say in what you teach, your curriculum, whether or not it is a separation of church and state issue," Deem told CP. "We have built in a protection in our contract with the local coalition office that provides our services for the VPK so that we have time throughout the day that the state is not paying for in order to alleviate any possibility of being challenged on teaching Christian values on the government dollar."
She shared that over the years, elders have become more and more worried about the government coming in and forcing the preschool to conform its curriculum to the secular anti-Christian standards – a trend they spotted outside the Sunshine State.
“[The elders had also been] investigating other churches in other states that have been threatened with political changes," Deem informed. "Basically, they were asking whether or not there is separation of church and state, can your status as an independent entity be challenged because you may not want to go with what is politically correct?"
One of the greatest warning signs they saw had to do with the Obama administration’s transgender restroom mandate forcing schools to accommodate sexually confused children or lose their government funding.
"They cite things such as installing transgender bathrooms or teaching values that are opposed to what the church actually stands for and the values that each independent church holds high," the Christian director continued.
Even though many of the 90 or so students attending Gateway are the children of parents who are not members of the church – families that come from all corners of the state capital – elders were not too concerned about opposition from the people the school served.
"So, the leadership here was just investigating those things, and they became concerned over the possibility of actions being taken because the school is here and maybe a possible liability because we have so many families that come in," Deem stressed. "We have not had any threats. We have not had anyone come and challenge these issues. I have had this position for nine years and I have never had anyone come and question us about our teachings. If anything, it is quite the opposite. They are happy that their children are getting some Christian education at an early age."
The right move?
The primary concern driving the closure was the preservation of the church itself.
"This was a decision of the leadership in effort to protect the congregation as a whole against any potential threat," Deem clarified.
After May, approximately a dozen staff members will be looking for work and the parents of 90 children will be searching for new schools for their children to attend in the fall semester.
After teaching at the preschool for more than 14 years before becoming the preschool’s director nearly 10 years ago, Deem indicated that the decision to voluntarily shut down was not hers.
"I knew the discussions were ongoing, and I had been a part of those discussions, [and] I cannot tell you that I support the decision," she insisted. "I do not [support the decision] for a number of personal reasons, but to say that it was a complete shock – no it wasn't. To say that the final word that came down is that they did decide to go in this direction, honestly – as a Christian leader – I was surprised."
Deem says it is a shame that such a fruitful ministry is closing its door, but she maintains that it is well with her soul.
"We have multiple generations that have come through this school – many successful people such as doctors and lawyers and such who have started here,” the Christian educator shared. “I feel like we have done an honorable thing here."
Even though she does not quite understand why everything had to come to an early end, she is content knowing that God is in control and has a purpose for everything.
"We are blessed and we feel like God's hand has been over this,” Deem concluded. “We are sad about it, but we do understand that sometimes doors close in order for others to open. We are just trying to do the right thing and end with honor. My faith tells me that we have to trust what is coming next."