US Govt backtrack after barring church from poverty scheme over biblical ethics

A church in California need not drop its biblical stance on sexual ethics to participate in a Government-funded food programme, officials have conceded.

In a court settlement, the Californian Department of Social Services (DSS) acknowledged that Church of Compassion, which runs Dayspring Christian Learning Center, remains free to provide meals under the federal food programme.

The church, which had operated under the Adult Food Care Program for nearly 20 years, took legal action after it was required to implement new “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” anti-discrimination requirements in violation of its statement of faith.

Reinstated and reimbursed

The church’s legal papers stated: “The government does not have the authority to force religious institutions to compromise their deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs and practices about human sexuality”, which were “uncontroversial for more than 2,000 years and continue to be held by most major world religions”.

It said the new requirements “send the message to houses of worship and other religious entities, that organizations that maintain traditional and/or biblical beliefs about human sexuality are second-class institutions, outsiders, and not full members of the community”.

In the settlement, the DDS agreed to reinstate the church centre as a participant in the Government food programme.

It also agreed to pay over $190,000 in costs – to cover legal fees and to reimburse the church centre for the cost of providing meals while disqualified from the federal scheme.

Religious freedom

Jeremiah Galus, Senior Counsel at US religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom, which supported the case, said in response to the settlement: “The government can’t withhold food from families in need simply because their children attend a Christian preschool.

“The Constitution protects the right of Church of Compassion and its preschool to operate according to the dictates of their faith.”

He added: “In the name of combatting discrimination, government officials excluded the church and preschool from serving the El Cajon community based solely on their religious beliefs and exercise.

“While it shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit to resolve this, at least now Church of Compassion can continue its vital outreach to needy children and families.”

One man one woman

In December, Country Mill Farms (CMF) owner Steve Tennes, who was banned from a farmers’ market in the US state of Michigan because he only allows opposite-sex couples to use his property for weddings, was awarded $825,000 following a court ruling.

In 2017, the Roman Catholic farmer was barred from continuing to sell products at East Lansing Farmer’s Market, after he explained on Facebook that he doesn’t hire out his land for same-sex weddings because of his “deeply held religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman”.

Also see:

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US court backs Christian academy’s right to receive preschool funding without abandoning ethos

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