The Biden administration and the Florida Agriculture commissioner have agreed not to block funding for a Florida Christian school’s lunch program in light of a federal lawsuit that alleged violations of religious liberty.
At issue was a new policy by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that prohibited schools from participating in the National School Lunch Program for low-income students – often called the “free lunch” program – if the same schools also didn’t ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The department claimed it was enforcing a Biden administration interpretation of Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex but that the administration interprets as also applying to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Grant Park Christian Academy in Tampa filed suit, alleging the policy violates federal law and the school’s free speech and religious liberty rights under the U.S. Constitution.
A total of 56 low-income students receive free lunches through the program.
In an Aug. 5 motion with a U.S. district court, the Biden administration and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried agreed to give the school a religious exemption under Title IX.
“These developments will permit Grant Park Christian Academy to serve lunches to its student body on the first day,” the motion said.
Alliance Defending Freedom represented the school in court.
The school’s ministry statement says the word “marriage” has only “one legitimate meaning, and that is marriage sanctioned by God, which joins one man and one woman.”
“It shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit to get the government to respect religious freedom,” said ADF legal counsel Erica Steinmiller-Perdomo. “Grant Park Christian Academy treats every child with dignity and respect and never turns away a hungry child. Now, provided the government follows through and approves Grant Park Christian Academy’s application and confirms its exemption, this private school can continue feeding dozens of children healthy meals every day. We will defend other public and private schools across the country who remain under the burden of this unlawful mandate that violates religious beliefs.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Monkey Business Images
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.