By Corinne Murdock |
The Goldwater Institute announced on Tuesday that they submitted a supportive brief in a lawsuit accusing Washington Elementary School District (WESD) of discriminating against Christians.
WESD decided to end its contract with Arizona Christian University (ACU) earlier this year over the school’s religious beliefs. The lawsuit was filed initially by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on behalf of ACU early last month.
WESD is the largest elementary school district in the state, and had partnered with ACU for 11 years without issue, according to court documents.
In their press release, the Goldwater Institute claimed that WESD violated the constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association for both ACU and its students to free speech. The Goldwater Institute further claimed that WESD’s actions ran afoul of the Arizona Constitution’s “religious test” clauses, which prohibit the government from discriminating based on religion when making hiring decisions.
The organization also pointed out that WESD committed the alleged discrimination despite grappling with an ongoing, historic teacher shortage like other districts.
In the Goldwater Institute’s amicus, or “friend-of-the-court,” brief, the organization said that WESD had unconstitutionally conditioned employment based on ACU’s faith.
“Defendants’ hostility toward Christians is apparently so intense that they cut off a long-standing teacher training program during an historic nationwide teacher shortage, simply because the teachers attended Arizona Christian University (ACU)—a school that espouses traditional Christian beliefs on its website,” said the organization.
ACU believes in Biblical teachings on marriage and sexuality, including that “God created man and woman in His image and likeness, that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female, and that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and woman who are married to each other,” per court filings.
AZ Free News first broke the story about WESD’s alleged discrimination. The ultimate decision to cut ties with ACU traces back to public comments from WESD Governing Board Member Tamillia Valenzuela.
Valenzuela — a self-described neurodivergent, queer furry — declared during a board meeting that ACU’s mission of prioritizing Jesus Christ’s teachings didn’t align with WESD priorities. In previous board meetings, Valenzuela has decried any Christian presence at WESD. In contemplating whether to continue the district’s contract with Grand Canyon University (GCU), Valenzuela insisted that WESD should cut ties there as well due to the university being a private Christian institution.
“I am wondering if there’s other options available, one so we are not actively engaging with an institution that’s causing harm and also so we can have options that are not based on a certain faith,” said Valenzuela.
ADF has asked for a preliminary injunction in the case. Their filing outlined various grievances against WESD in regard to their opposition against ACU for its religious beliefs. This included WESD governing board member remarks accusing ACU student teachers of being “openly bigoted,” causing LGBTQ+ people to feel “unsafe.”
“The School District’s policy therefore is loud and clear: Christians with disfavored beliefs are neither welcome nor allowed to serve in the District,” stated ADF.
There will be oral arguments in the case, Arizona Christian University v. Washington Elementary School District, next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Sandra Day O’Connor courthouse.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to email@example.com.