Vermont Christian School Benched for Refusing To Compete With Transgender Athlete Sues for Religious Discrimination

The expulsion effectively blacklists the Christian academy from all high school sports, as well as co-ed academic competitions such as a statewide Geo-Bee, science and math fairs, and debate teams.

AP/Armando Franca, file
A demonstrator holds up a sign during a march to mark International Transgender Day of Visibility. AP/Armando Franca, file

A Christian school at Vermont that was prohibited from participating in statewide sports programs after it backed out of a girls basketball game because the other team included a six-foot transgender player is suing the state alleging discrimination against it on the basis of its religious beliefs.

The Mid Vermont Christian School, which serves students from pre-K through 12th grade near Quechee, was kicked out of the Vermont Principals Association’s statewide sports league earlier this year after the association changed its policies to require schools to allow athletes to compete on the team that reflects their gender identity instead of their sex at birth. The policy effectively forces female athletes to compete against males in the state regardless of any philosophical or religious objections the schools may harbor.

Vermont’s Board of Education also has excluded the school from a statewide tuition program that allows students in smaller districts without public high schools to attend private schools or those outside their district. The reason for the exclusion is that the Christian academy refuses to bend to the current orthodoxy — enshrined in state law — regarding gender identity.

In the federal lawsuit filed this week, the school and two families with children who attend it, allege that the state is violating its First Amendment rights protecting freedom of speech, religion, and expression. The state, the lawsuit says, is discriminating against the school and other faith-based organizations because of their religious beliefs about sex, marriage, and gender.

“The state’s unlawful exclusion of Mid Vermont Christian from participating in the tuition program and athletic association is the latest example of state officials trampling on constitutionally protected rights,” says a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, Ryan Tucker, which is representing the school. “Egregiously, Vermont continues its blatant discrimination against religious schools despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makin that the government cannot exclude families from public benefits just because they choose religious education for their children.”

In Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that the state of Maine cannot exclude students who attend religious schools from a state program similar to the one at Vermont designed for students who don’t have access to regular public schools. In the six-to-three decision, the court ruled that Maine’s “nonsectarian” requirement “for otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments” flatly “violates the Free Exercise Clause.”

The Mid-Vermont Christian School ran afoul of the Principals association, which manages secondary school athletics in the state, in February after it reluctantly forfeited a girls’ basketball game against  a small co-ed college prep school named Long Trail because a player on its team is a biological male. The Christian school stated that the game would not have been a fair one.

The expulsion, after nearly three decades of participation in state athletics, effectively blacklists the Christian academy from all high school sports, as well as co-ed academic competitions such as a statewide Geo-Bee, science and math fairs, and debate teams.

According to the ADF’s Jake Reed, “Vermont, through its education agency and sports association, has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination by requiring a Christian school and its students to surrender their religious beliefs and practices in order to receive public funds and compete in sports.”

A representative from the Vermont Principals Association, which is named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment.

The New York Sun

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