Arizona Christian University won a victory after being discriminated against for their religious convictions. Washington Elementary School District, which includes the cities of Phoenix and Glendale, has backtracked on its decision to end its 11-year relationship with the University. The change of heart followed a settlement Wednesday in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the University by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
JUST IN Washington Elementary School District settles discrimination lawsuit filed by Arizona Christian University over non-renewal of agreement to provide student teachers. Back story: https://t.co/gy4Nfwp5ng pic.twitter.com/uTYFsA71uA
— Brahm Resnik (@brahmresnik) May 4, 2023
According to KSAZ-TV, in February, the district’s governing board contained three LGBT members and voted 5-0 to discontinue working with the university’s student-teacher program because of the college’s commitment to Christian values, specifically due to its beliefs in the area of sexuality and marriage.
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Center for AZ Policy tweeted, “Victory! WESD schools settle a religious discrimination lawsuit with Arizona Christian University. Complete vindication of the rights of ACU students to be able to participate as student teachers without fear of religious discrimination.”
#ReligiousFreedom VICTORY! @WESDschools settles #religious #discrimination lawsuit w/ Arizona Christian University @ACU_AZ. Complete vindication of the rights of ACU students to be able to participate as student teachers without fear of religious discrimination. pic.twitter.com/N8szbhYFZV
— Center for AZ Policy (@azpolicy) May 4, 2023
David Cortman, ADF senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation, issued a statement regarding the school’s violation of the law,
“By discriminating against Arizona Christian University and denying it an opportunity to participate in the student-teacher program because of its religious status and beliefs, the school district was in blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution, not to mention state law that protects ACU’s religious freedom,”
“At a time when a critical shortage of qualified, caring teachers exists, the Washington Elementary School District board did the right thing by prioritizing the needs of elementary school children and agreeing to partner once again with ACU’s student-teachers.”
As part of the settlement with ACU, the Washington Elementary School board will also pay $25,000 in attorneys’ fees.
University President Len Munsil stated that over one hundred student teachers had trained in the district, and roughly 25% had been offered full-time jobs. There had also been no complaints prior to the school board’s decision.
According to the Western Journal, the Washington Elementary School Board discussed the University’s student handbook in a February board meeting and disliked some of the school’s core beliefs:
1. The recognition of marriage as existing only between a man and a woman “with absolute marital fidelity.”
2. Specific roles of husbands and wives, including as fathers and mothers, and of the role of children.
3. “It is our firm conviction that we uphold the dignity of each individual as we embrace the unchanging and longstanding principles of scriptural truth,” the handbook says.
4. ACU community members are called on to avoid sex outside of marriage, including same-sex activities.
In a massive win against discrimination, the Washington school district will again take applications from the college students enrolled in the teaching program at Arizona Christian University.