USDA exempts religious schools from LGBT rule change threatening free lunch funds
“But public schools, charter schools and secular private schools are unprotected and remain under threat. Additionally, other federal laws without religious exemptions may also apply. As long as the Biden administration seeks to redefine what it means to be male or female in all federal laws, religious schools risk being punished simply for maintaining Christian beliefs,” she added.
Fifty-two percent of U.S. Catholic schools participate in the federal breakfast program, according to the National Catholic Educational Association.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis withdraws from the NSLP
Despite the USDA clarification, the Archdiocese of St. Louis issued a private memo Aug. 16 telling archdiocesan schools to drop the lunch program.
Brecht Mulvihill, the archdiocese’s executive director of communications, told CNA in an email that the archdiocese has decided not to participate in both the NSLP and the similar USDA milk program.
“As with any federal grant, schools that participate in these programs are subject to a wide variety of federal mandates, which could ultimately impact decisions about admissions, extracurricular activities, facilities, and logistics,” said writes Mulvihill, adding, “In certain circumstances, these mandates would impede a school’s ability to faithfully apply the teachings of the Catholic Church.
There are approximately a dozen Archdiocesan elementary and secondary schools that have participated in the programs in the past and will be affected.
“The Archdiocese of St. Louis strives to provide similar meal service or reduced cost options that our students and their families rely on. In the meantime, there will be no disruption to these important services,” Mulvihill said.
When CNA asked if USDA’s reinstatement of the broad religious exemption would change the archdiocese’s decision to withdraw from the program, Mulvihill replied that “acceptance of any federal grant would subject archdiocesan schools to mandatory programs that could interfere with a school’s ability to faithfully apply the teachings of the Catholic Church.Our decision to withdraw from these programs is not due to any specific rule, law, or mandate.
A USDA official told CNA Aug. 30 that while Title IX regulations apply to a “wide range” of schools, the law provides certain exceptions, “including one allowing an institution to be exempt on religious grounds where there is a conflict between Title IX and the religious principles governing a school.
The spokesperson said “USDA regulations do not require a religious educational institution to submit a written application for a Title IX exemption in order to claim this exemption,” adding, “Recent guidance from USDA seek to clarify this process”.
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The official also said the department is working with all of its partners to “ensure that applicable laws against discrimination are properly understood and implemented.”
“We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” the spokesperson added.