Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), along with the National Center for Law and Policy and Advocates for Faith and Freedom, have filed an amended complaint and a motion for preliminary injunction against the Biden administration and California state officials on behalf of an El Cajon church and preschool.
The case, Church of Compassion v Johnson, involves the Biden administration and California state officials’ unlawful suspension of the Church of Compassion and Dayspring Christian Learning Center’s participation in a federal food program because of their religious beliefs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the Child and Adult Food Care Program, which provides funding to California and other states.
Following the Biden administration’s policy changes to Title IX, which radically expanded its interpretation of the definition of “sex” in Title IX to include sexual orientation and gender identity, California’s Department of Social Services and the USDA issued new mandates that prevent houses of worship and religious organizations adhering to traditional religious beliefs about human sexuality from participating in the program.
The Church of Compassion operates Dayspring, a Christian preschool and daycare center, which has been participating in the food program for nearly 20 years.
The program has provided around $3,500-$4,500 per month to help feed impoverished students in Dayspring’s daycare and preschool, including those from immigrant families who qualify for free meals. While Dayspring serves all families, including several LGBT families who appreciate the religious instruction provided, it does not promote or teach all messages.
Due to their religious beliefs conflicting with these mandates, the government unlawfully suspended the church and preschool from the food program on December 29, 2022.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys argue that parents who choose to send their children to Dayspring are informed and understand that the preschool and daycare program is affiliated with the Church of Compassion and is operated as a Christian program.
Further, they are provided with a parent handbook that explicitly includes Dayspring’s articles of faith and mission statement which states: “The Bible is the Sovereign Word of God. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary. Jesus died to atone for our sins. Jesus rose on the third day, lives today, and is coming again to receive those that believe and wait for His return. Salvation is obtained by grace alone through faith. The Holy Trinity includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
The lawsuit argues that government does not have the authority to force religious institutions to “compromise their deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs and practices about human sexuality, capitulate to the new SOGI [Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity] Rules, or pressure religious groups and people to assimilate to conflicting sexual philosophies.”
The lawsuit accuses state and federal government officials of attempting to force the church and preschool to abandon their sincerely held Christian beliefs and practices concerning human sexuality, including their right to hire individuals who share their beliefs.
Further, the suit claims that these new directives violate various provisions of the First Amendment, including the Free Exercise, Free Speech, Freedom of Association, and Establishment Clauses, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Administrative Procedure Act.
ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus says the government’s actions violate the U.S. Constitution and federal laws that protect the church and preschool’s right to operate according to their faith. “Ironically, in the name of combatting discrimination, government officials have excluded the church and preschool from serving the El Cajon community based solely on their religious beliefs and exercise. This is antithetical to the First Amendment’s promise of religious freedom and only hurts needy families and children,” says Galus.
Church of Compassion v. Johnson was originally filed in March by Dean Broyles of the National Center for Law and Policy, along with Mariah Gondeiro and Julianne Fleischer of Advocates for Faith and Freedom. These attorneys are part of the ADF Attorney Network, which comprises more than 4,700 lawyers.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.
Alliance Defending Freedom Church Alliance and Alliance Defending Freedom Ministry Alliance are two crucial ministry arms of Alliance Defending Freedom that provide legal support and guidance to churches and ministries, helping them navigate attacks on religious freedom and safeguarding their ability to operate according to their beliefs.