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Christian school sues Vermont over transgender policy

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(The Center Square) — Vermont is being sued by a private Christian school that claims the state’s policy on transgender athletes has excluded its students from sporting events and a taxpayer-funded tuition program.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of several students at the Mid-Vermont Christian School, argues that the state’s policies violate their religious beliefs and are discriminatory. The plaintiffs asked a federal judge to grant an injunction blocking enforcement of the transgender policy and pay damages.

The school is represented in the legal challenge by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based conservative Christian litigation group specializing in religious freedom cases.

“Vermont, through its education agency and sports association, has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination by requiring a Christian school and its students to surrender their religious beliefs and practices in order to receive public funds and compete in sports,” the group’s counsel, Jake Reed, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the state blocked the Christian school from participating in athletic tournaments after it forfeited a girls’ basketball playoff game against a team with a transgender student-athlete.

In response, the Vermont Principals Association, which governs high school sports in the state, voted to ban the school’s teams from state-sponsored tournaments and sporting events indefinitely. The move also prohibited the school from participating in a state-run tuition program.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that the “gender fair” policy requires schools to “adopt the state’s view on human sexuality and gender — namely, that sex is mutable and biological differences do not matter — as a condition to participate in the state’s tuition program and athletic association.”

“Doing so violates the First Amendment rights of Mid Vermont Christian, its students and families, and other faith-based schools by preventing them from practicing their religious beliefs about sexuality and gender,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in the 71-page complaint.

The group argues that Vermont is defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makin, which held that the government can’t exclude families from public benefits just because they choose religious education for their children.

“Vermont has an infamous record of discriminating against religious schools and families,” said Ryan Tucker, the group’s senior counsel.

“Whether it be withholding generally available public funding or denying them membership in the state’s sports league because they hold religious beliefs that differ from the state’s preferred views.”

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