The families whose children attend Englewood Christian School in Florida can breathe a sigh of relief. The school will once again open its doors in the fall.
This is great news for the more than 50 students that the school serves, many of them with learning disabilities. After all, the school’s future wasn’t always so clear.
In 2016, Sarasota County informed Englewood Christian School that it needed a special permit to operate. But when it applied for the special permit, it was denied. This was odd considering that charter schools in Florida are allowed to operate out of any church. But apparently, religious schools like Englewood don’t get the same treatment.
So, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) stepped in and filed a lawsuit on behalf of the school.
Thankfully, the county has agreed to let the school continue to serve children and families in the community, and ADF dismissed the lawsuit.
This is something that Englewood Christian School does exceptionally well.
Englewood has the flexibility to tailor the learning environment to the needs of its students. Because of this, it has proven to be particularly effective in serving students who are facing learning disabilities.
Many of the students who attend Englewood Christian School had fallen behind in traditional public schools – in some cases, several years behind – and their parents were looking for alternatives. With Englewood’s focus on individualized learning, many of these students have been able to catch up to the grade level they should be in.
That’s why it was so concerning when the county informed Englewood that it would no longer be allowed to operate without a special permit. And why it was even more concerning when that special permit was denied.
In doing so, the county exposed its double standard and sent a clear message: Religious schools don’t deserve the same treatment as charter schools.
But that violates federal law, which prohibits the government from using its zoning codes to single out religious institutions and treat them worse than everyone else. On top of that, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Trinity Lutheran case, which we litigated, that the government cannot treat religious organizations and individuals as second-class citizens.
Thankfully, Sarasota County recognized the error of its ways. And these students can continue to thrive in the learning environment of their choosing.
January 16 is National Religious Freedom Day. For many Americans, this day carries more weight than in recent years – because of what churches have encountered this past year and the challenges ahead.Continue reading