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CA Officials Settle Lawsuit After Barring Church From Preschool Lunch Program

Anastasia Boushee
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State officials in California have finally agreed to settle for nearly $200,000 with the Church of Compassion and Dayspring Christian Learning Center after the deep-blue state attempted to exclude the church from its preschool lunch program.

The church and the learning center filed a lawsuit alongside the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in June 2023 accusing officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Social Services of barring them from participating in the “Child and Adult Food Care Program” over their religious beliefs on gender.


The settlement agreement was filed by California officials and the ADF this week. It will require the defendants to pay $30,000 for meals that the church and learning center paid for out of pocket while being denied state funding, as well as another $160,000 for attorney’s fees.

In a press release about the agreement, ADF senior counsel Jeremiah Galus celebrated the victory while condemning the government officials for religious discrimination.

“In the name of combatting discrimination, government officials excluded the church and preschool from serving the El Cajon community based solely on their religious beliefs and exercise,” the press release read. “While it shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit to resolve this, at least now Church of Compassion can continue its vital outreach to needy children and families.”

The Dayspring Christian Learning Center had been participating in the USDA’s program for nearly 20 years before the Biden administration changed the program’s rules in 2021 and began requiring that all participants commit to not discriminating based on a person’s orientation or gender identity.

Many saw this rule change as specifically targeting conservative and Christian organizations that do not agree with pushing LGBT ideology on children. The ADF noted this in the press release, pointing out that the “government can’t withhold food from families in need simply because their children attend a Christian preschool. The Constitution protects the right of Church of Compassion and its preschool to operate according to the dictates of their faith.”


The rule change also led the USDA make the decision in May 2023 to require state directors of the department’s food and nutrition service programs to prohibit the same supposed “discrimination” at the state level.

The Church of Compassion and Dayspring Christian Learning Center refused to meet these demands for the 2022-2023 school year due to their religious beliefs concerning biological facts, as well as refusing to “use any child or employee’s ‘preferred’ pronouns.”