The U.S. Department of Justice has submitted a "statement of interest" in support of a Christian school that has been banned from a state's scholarship program.
Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, tells OneNewsNow that the state of Maryland kicked Bethel Christian Academy out of the state voucher program because of its Christian beliefs. She argues that in doing so, state officials actually broke the law.
"But we are very encouraged that this Department of Justice recognizes that religious discrimination by government officials against Christian entities cannot go unchecked – and, in fact, it violates very clear Supreme Court precedent," says Holcomb.
ADF, which is defending the school in a legal battle, quotes a portion of the DOJ statement of interest referring to court precedent:
"Supreme Court and lower court precedent make clear that penalizing Bethel for its beliefs goes beyond regulating conduct to regulating expression in violation of the Free Speech Clause, and coercing Bethel to renounce its religious character in violation of the Free Exercise Clause."
Instead of simply ousting the Baltimore-area school from the programming, Holcomb says the state is demanding the school pay back $100.000 in state vouchers that the school had used to educate low-income children.
"The State of Maryland did not have to [make that] demand …," the attorney points out. "Regardless, the state … decided that they were going to demand that clawback and [has] even threatened to send that clawback demand to collections."
Holcomb contends the state is bullying Bethel Christian Academy because of its biblical belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.