Governor Gavin Newsom's (D) Department of Social Services (CDSS) tried to force the Church of Compassion and its Dayspring Christian Learning Center in El Cajon to change their hiring policies, bathroom regulations, dress codes, and pronoun usage to comply with the government's updated definitions.
Greg Burt, vice president of the California Family Council, says the church's preschool was able to withstand this attempt to force them to change their beliefs.
"We had a preschool who was involved in a federal program that provided school lunches," he details. "Our state here thought that because the church was taking state money, they could dictate to the preschool who they hired, their restroom regulation, [and] to coerce them to give up their beliefs about sexuality and gender."
In December 2022, the state chose to penalize the school's noncompliance by stripping its funding.
National Center for Law and Policy, which represented the school, repeatedly warned California that it was violating the Constitution's First Amendment, and when nothing changed, a lawsuit was filed in March of last year.
But the case was short-lived.
"They didn't even have to go to court because our attorney general's office knew that they could never defend persecuting a church like this," Burt reports.
The settlement reinstated Dayspring into the food program, got it its suspended funds back, and more, including having CDSS pay $160,000 in legal fees.
In a statement to AFN, Dean Broyles, who is president of NCLP, called it "profoundly unethical and immoral" for the State of California to "hold hungry children hostage to their draconian desire to coercively control the religious beliefs, observances and practices of a Christian church and its religious preschool."
A government must never be allowed, he further said, to force citizens to adopt its "favored ideas" and suppress religious beliefs.
Broyles also credited Advocates for Faith and Freedom for being co-counsel in the lawsuit.
As for the church and its learning center, Burt says they are happy they can continue providing lunches for the low-income kids in their community without being told to give up their biblical beliefs.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with comments from Dean Broyles and corrected to identify the National Center for Law and Policy.