California Won’t Let These Families Choose a Religious Education

October 13, 2023
California Charter Schools | First Liberty Insider

by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read

In America, families should be able to choose the best education for our children. And if we choose a religious curriculum or school, that’s our decision. That seems like something we can all agree on, right?

Well, some states apparently have a serious problem with this. They keep discriminating against parents who want to participate in state programs to help pay for their kids’ education. Why? Just because parents choose a religious education.

That’s what’s happening to several First Liberty clients in California. We represent three families in the Golden State. The Woolard, Gonzales, and Dodson families all educate their children with the help of public charter schools.

California has several charter schools that offer homeschool programs. Families who choose this option receive an account with funds they can use for school materials and curriculum for the parents to use in teaching their children.

Here’s the problem. They CAN’T use those funds to purchase curriculum, materials, or classes that are religious, or even mention religion. One of our clients was even expelled from a charter school because they selected a religious curriculum.

Wait. Isn’t it illegal for the state to fund religious education? No. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that this is perfectly legal and constitutional.

Remember our “Treat Children Fairly” case, Carson v. Makin? The nation’s highest court held that states can’t discriminate against parents who want to use state-provided funding to attend religious schools merely because those schools are religious. This was a huge win protecting religious education nationwide. Plus, it also helps ensure equal treatment for all religious organizations and people of faith.

That’s just the most recent precedent. The Supreme Court also protected the equal treatment of religious organizations in two other big cases: Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (2017) and Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020).

But anti-faith groups and hostile government officials apparently aren’t getting the memo. Or, they’re blatantly defying the Supreme Court’s direction. Religious discrimination like this is patently unconstitutional—and it needs to end. NOW.

Join The Fight. These Families Are Counting On Us.

This week, First Liberty filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Education. We’re taking this case to federal court to make sure state officials get in line and follow the law.

Multiple Supreme Court decisions make it abundantly clear that government cannot punish or single out families because they choose to follow a religious curriculum. Our clients deserve to be treated the same as everyone else. Religious families should never be treated like second class citizens. Period.

But you know very well that our opponents are going to fight us tooth and nail. They apparently don’t care what the Supreme Court has said. They simply keep flouting the law.

Consider this. In addition to this California case, we’re also still fighting for families in Maine. Officials in that state keep finding ways to discriminate against religious schools. They still won’t let our client—Bangor Christian School—participate in the state tuition program. That case is also pending in federal court.

What does this tell you? First Liberty is fighting on multiple fronts. Religious Americans are confronting some serious problems and discrimination all across the country.

Simply put, we have our work cut out for us. The fight IS NOT OVER.

This means First Liberty needs your support now more than ever.

The Woolard, Dodson, and Gonzalez families can’t do it alone. We’re asking you to join us—and them—in this fight.

These families are just like yours. Just like mine. They simply want what’s best for their kids—but the state keeps getting in their way and mistreating them.

We need to win this case. But before getting to a victory, we’ll have to battle this out in court. These cases are incredibly hard to fight. They require tremendous resources. They demand the very best of us and our volunteer attorneys.

There is good news, though. We’ve taken on state bullies before—and we’ve beat them in court.

Let’s go get another win. This wouldn’t just be a victory for three families in California. It would be a WIN FOR YOU. For your family. A win for millions of families and religious schools across America.

The Battle Is Not Over | First Liberty Insider

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