The 56 students enrolled at Grant Park Christian Academy in Florida receive a free lunch at school, thanks to the academy’s participation in the federal school lunch program. But the federal government is now threatening to starve these children, all from families living below the poverty line. You can trace this threat to a directive from the Biden administration to expand the definition of sex to include gender identity.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat sympathetic to the Biden administration’s position, oversees the program in Florida. When Grant Park applied to participate in the luncheon program, Florida officials told the school that to qualify for the federal program, it would have to change its policies to adhere to the expanded gender definitions put in place by the administration. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by Grant Park, the school is appealing religious exemptions from the Title IX program.
“The Biden administration is threatening to take lunch money away from low-income kids just for attending Christian schools,” said legal counsel Erica Steinmiller-Perdomo of Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the school. The ADF statement continued, “Grant Park Christian Academy strives to revitalize their historically deprived community, and providing children with nutritious meals is an essential part of their service. The Biden administration is ignoring the law and forcing this wonderful school to make an untenable choice: violate its religious beliefs or stop providing lunches to children.
What a cruel and capricious policy. The Biden administration is essentially asking this Christian school, which exists to provide quality Christian education to vulnerable children, to choose between the belief systems that drive its mission and to provide lunch for its students. This is another way in which the sexual revolution, authorized by the federal government, either softens the conscience of religious people or eliminates them altogether from participation in public life. It also appears to contravene recent court rulings, such as Lutheran Trinity and Carson v. Makinthat prevent governments from discriminating against religious organizations when it comes to widely available public benefits.
More importantly, the Biden administration’s willingness to use the school lunch program as a bargaining chip in an effort to force religious institutions to abandon their deeply held beliefs about marriage and sexuality reveals how the left is committed to advancing the sexual revolution. It’s the same approach used to push Catholic and evangelical agencies out of the adoption space for the crime of sticking to a traditional view of marriage and sexuality. Fortunately, the courts have protected the religious freedoms of these organizations in cases such as Fulton v Philadelphia Cream.
This decision by the Biden administration and Florida’s commissioner of agriculture also exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of the belief system that drives religious people to engage in compassionate ministry in the first place. Religious organizations engage in acts of mercy, not despite of their mysterious and deep convictions, but because of them. For Christians, Christianity and their compassion are not compartmentalized but part of a whole. If you lose Christianity, you lose compassion.
“We treat every child with dignity and respect, and we would never deny a hungry child a meal,” said Pastor Alfred Johnson, president of Faith Action Ministry Alliance, the parent organization of Grant Park Christian Academy. “Our children depend on our school’s lunch program to eat balanced and nutritious meals. Government officials are wrong to threaten to withdraw funding for these meals simply because we wish to live and function in accordance with our religious beliefs.
This pastor and organization should not be targeted and harassed by their own state and federal governments. On the other hand, they are to be commended, both for their commitment to providing vulnerable young children with a quality education and for their refusal to bend their core beliefs to the whims of the sexual revolution. Christians should be similarly steadfast in the face of opposition. And we should work and pray for governments that allow Christians to be Christians. Even when hungry kids’ lunch is at stake.