A church in Massachusetts has won the right to open a private Christian school after facing discrimination from local officials.
It comes after a school committee member had allegedly influenced other members of the Greenfield, Massachusetts, Public School Committee to reject Providence Moldovian Baptist Church’s application for a private Christian school in their district.
Liberty Counsel, representing the church and its school, Providence Christian Academy, sent a letter to the school board explaining why Committee Member Elizabeth Ann de Neeve’s accusations against the church’s school were false and how the committee had violated the First Amendment and state law by discriminating against the school based on its religious viewpoint.
As a result, Greenfield Public Schools held a special virtual session Monday night and voted to approve the church’s application for Providence Christian Academy. The vote was 4-1 with two abstentions. Now the elementary school is free to begin classes for Fall 2023.
“The Greenfield School Committee needs to control the rhetoric and personal advocacy of some of its members. Personal advocacy coupled with unhinged false statements denigrating a Christian school will not play well in a court of law. While we are pleased that Providence Christian Academy will begin accepting students this fall, we remain astounded concerning the statements made by some committee members,” Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in a press release.
“The First Amendment stands as a reminder that those who serve in government must govern themselves in accordance with the Constitution,” Staver added.
Liberty Counsel contended the school committee should have approved the church school’s application during its regularly scheduled meeting on July 12. But according to the religious rights law firm, after de Neeve expressed some anti-religious views, the committee failed to approve the church school’s application on the basis of its religious beliefs and its choice of a well-established Abeka curriculum. De Neeve also used her position to voice her public opposition to the Christian school with a post on her Facebook page, in which she said in part:
“I am calling for action because this private school is using a controversial creationist curriculum called Abeka, which is associated with nationally-funded right-wing Christian groups and teaches students a very different view of the world from what’s taught in the rest of Greenfield’s public and private schools,” she wrote.
De Neeve also encouraged her Facebook followers to write the school committee, and education secretary, and tell friends and neighbors to oppose the approval of the Christian school.
In its letter to the school committee, Liberty Counsel informed the committee members the Abeka Christian school curriculum was accredited by several school associations.
“The Abeka Christian school curriculum was accredited by the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (FACCS) and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA CESS). Full accreditation of Abeka through FACCS provides additional national and state recognition with the National Council of Private School Accreditation (NCPSA), which is a consortium of accrediting associations for the recognition of early childhood, elementary, and secondary private schools, and serves as a national review panel for the standards and review procedures of private school accrediting associations,” the law firm wrote.
Liberty Counsel also informed the committee of the fact that in the state of Massachusetts, at least 30 private Christian schools have been approved to use, and are already using Abeka’s curriculum.
“At least 7,600 schools throughout the United States and more around the world are also using Abeka. In addition to private Christian schools, thousands of homeschooling parents use Abeka for their children’s education, including many who were approved to do so in Greenfield,” the law firm noted.
“Quite clearly, there are no legitimate concerns about the efficacy, rigor, or sufficiency of the Abeka curriculum. Any purported concerns raised by the Committee are clearly pretextual and a thin veil for animus and discrimination against the religious beliefs and teachings of the Church School,” the Liberty Counsel wrote.