(FOX40.COM) — A lawsuit was filed on Oct. 11 against several education officials in California, including some from the Sacramento area, on behalf of parents who allege that they were discriminated against because of their religious beliefs during the course of home-schooling their children.
First Liberty Institute and King & Spalding LLP reported that the federal lawsuit was filed at the United States District Court Eastern District of California.
The lawsuit lists the defendants as superintendents, executive directors, principals, school boards, staff, and directors of instruction within the San Juan Unified School District and Maricopa Unified School District, in addition to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond.
Plaintiffs of the lawsuit are listed as parents John and Breanna Woolard, Hector and Diana Gonzales, and Carrie Dodson who say they’re “devout Christians who are raising school-age children whose Christian faith is central to their identity and worldview.”
The lawsuit continued, “Instilling that faith in their children, including through their education, is of the highest importance to them.”
The full lawsuit that lists all plaintiffs and defendants can be read here.
The State of California allows tuition-free charter schools under the jurisdiction of local school districts. Some charter schools offer “independent study” programs, including the districts listed as defendants.
According to the California Department of Education, the independent programs gives parents “expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system,” and “may not discriminate, nor can it charge tuition.”
The California charter school system also gives parents access to state funds that are available to be used for curriculum, materials, individual classes at some private schools, and extracurricular activities. The parents are able to choose the curriculum and teach their children, while the charter school provides support and confirms attendance records.
The lawsuit alleges that charter schools in the Sacramento and Maricopa areas discriminate against families who choose to homeschool their children with faith-based curricula by not allowing the parents to use state money to purchase materials or classes that have religious perspectives. Additionally, the schools allegedly refused to accept credit for coursework that originates from a religious curriculum or reflects a religious perspective.
“As the Supreme Court made clear last year in Carson v. Makin, when the government provides a benefit, like parent-directed educational funding, it cannot exclude families just because they choose to use that benefit for a religious education,” said Ethan Davis, partner at King & Spalding in a prepared statement. “Religious families are entitled to the same educational benefits as everyone else.”
Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty Justin Butterfield said, “These families love their charter schools and the opportunities those schools provide for families to educate their children in a way that fits the families’ needs. Our clients simply want to be able to choose curricula that fits their families’ needs without facing religious discrimination.”
First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans, according to their website.
Each family listed as plaintiffs say they enrolled their children in a charter school’s independent study program, but each “faced religious discrimination, including being denied the right to use high-quality curriculum that comport with California state standards, simply because they reflect a faith-based worldview,” according to the lawsuit.
The Dodson family was reportedly expelled from its charter school because the family chose a religious curriculum.