In a recent decision, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel D. Domenico ruled in favor of Darren Patterson Christian Academy, a Christian school in Buena Vista, allowing it to remain a part of Colorado’s universal preschool program, UPK Colorado.
The preliminary injunction granted by Judge Domenico permits the academy to continue receiving state funds while the lawsuit is in process. This also means that the school can continue with its hiring policies, which revolve around its religious convictions on gender and sexuality.
Jeremiah Galus, an attorney representing the school, argued that religious institutions should not be coerced into forgoing their beliefs to benefit from a public program open to all.
While UPK Colorado mandates participating preschools to accept students and families irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity, Darren Patterson Christian Academy strictly adheres to Christian doctrines.
They only hire Christian staff, uphold the belief in two genders, teach that marriage is exclusive to a man and a woman, and refrain from using pronouns not aligning with a student’s sex ascribed at birth.
While no complaints have been directed against the school, it proactively filed the lawsuit, invoking First Amendment rights, when the state declined its request for an exemption concerning anti-discrimination hiring practices.
Voters sanctioned the funding for UPK Colorado in 2020, with the initiative commencing this fall. It promises at least 15 hours weekly of state-sponsored preschool education to numerous children in Colorado. Currently, nearly 2,000 providers are enrolled in this program.
The school’s legal team highlighted potential repercussions under the program if complaints were against the academy’s policies. Judge Domenico referred to a remark by Gov. Jared Polis’s office, expressing a robust defense of UPK against prejudice.
Several other Christian schools, including Denver Archdiocese, have raised similar legal challenges against UPK Colorado, invoking a previous Supreme Court case, 303 Creative v. Elenis.
The Colorado Democratic LGBTQ+ Caucus expressed concern over the decision, emphasizing that it contradicts the majority of Coloradans who champion LGBTQ rights. They believe that taxpayer money should only support preschools willing to serve the entirety of Colorado’s populace.
Judge Domenico, who was appointed by ex-President Donald Trump in 2019, also recently granted a preliminary injunction in favor of a Catholic anti-abortion center.