A Massachusetts school committee reversed its prior decision not to let the Vida Real Church, a largely Hispanic immigrant congregation, open a religious private school known as the "Real Life Learning Center."
CBN News reported that Mary Skipper and the Somerville Public School Committee had allowed RLLC to open, Monday evening. "We are absolutely thrilled the RLLC will be able to open," said Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. "It is good to see Somerville school officials finally treating Vida Real fairly and according to the law."
"We are grateful that Somerville officials recognized that the government cannot ban a religious school because they disagree with its religious beliefs," said Ryan Gardner, counsel for First Liberty Institute. "Because of the school board's decision, more families will be able to provide the education they desire for their children."
In a letter, the First Liberty Institute and the Massachusetts Family Institute previously urged the school committee to approve the church's application, noting that blocking the school from opening through religious beliefs, would be a violation of the law.
In response, the school committee disagreed with the "characterization of the Committee's communication with the RLLC."
"The Somerville Public Schools does not discriminate based on religion or any other protected class, and the Committee's review of the RLLC application has been and will continue to be fair, thorough, and consistent with the Committee's legal authority. The Committee will complete its review of the RLLC application promptly and issue a determination on the merits of the application," Skipper said.
According to The Christian Post, in the virtual meeting, one Somerville official was worried about the legal consequences if the private school wouldn't be approved to open. Committee member Ilana Krepchin said "I think it's hard to have to vote for a school that has so many values that I don't agree with, but I see the law is what it is in this case. I don't see we have much of an option, and I just have to say this whole process seems a bit nutty."
After the church attempted to seek permission to open in September 2021, members of the school committee voiced their opposition to the church's religious beliefs.
"The school's position on homosexuality and creationism makes it difficult to see how a thorough science and health curriculum is possible. The school's approach to student services and counseling appears to devalue evidence-based psychology and its emphasis on approaches rooted in the belief that mental illness is caused by sin and demons is unscientific and harmful..." the school committee argued.
However, Beckwith firmly stood that "It is illegal and unconstitutional for city officials to question the religious beliefs of Vida Real, let alone use those beliefs to stop the church from opening a school."
"This is blatant religious discrimination," he said. "It's time for Somerville officials to stop treating Vida Real unfairly and allow it to pursue the opening of a school."