A Christian school in Florida will retain access to a federal lunch program benefiting low-income students despite initial concerns that it would be barred considering LGBT discrimination policies enacted by the Biden administration.
Grant Park Christian Academy of Tampa sued government officials last month to secure its access to the National School Lunch Program, which provided lunches to 56 low-income students enrolled at its school.
The Biden administration and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried informed the school on Friday that "they intend to approve the school’s application for funding," according to ADF.
ADF Legal Counsel Erica Steinmiller-Perdomo believes it "shouldn't have taken a lawsuit to get the government to respect religious freedom."
"Now, provided the government follows through and approves Grant Park Christian Academy's application and confirms its exemption, this private school can continue feeding dozens of children healthy meals every day," Steinmiller-Perdomo said in a statement.
"We will defend other public and private schools across the country who remain under the burden of this unlawful mandate that violates religious beliefs."
Last month, the ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Faith Action Ministry Alliance, Inc., which operates Grant Park, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.
Defendants named in the lawsuit included Fried, President Joe Biden and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack.
At issue was the U.S. Agriculture Department's Food and Nutrition Service announcement in May interpreting the Title IX prohibition on discrimination based on sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
"As a result, state and local agencies, program operators and sponsors that receive funds from FNS must investigate allegations of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation," stated the FNS.
"Those organizations must also update their non-discrimination policies and signage to include prohibitions against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation."
The FNS oversees the National School Lunch Program, which provides low-cost and free lunches to children at tens of thousands of public and nonprofit private schools nationwide.
The ADF lawsuit argued that such a policy would force Grant Park to abandon its gender-specific student dress code, allow biological males into girls' restrooms and force teachers to use students' preferred pronouns.
Late last month, 22 states filed suit over the Biden administration's announced anti-discrimination policy, arguing it would force Christian schools to adopt LGBT ideology or lose out on the program.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed that the new standard would "penalize states that have taken basic commonsense actions like just recognizing the importance of women's sports."
"They're threatening to take away lunch money from poor kids as punishment from us protecting women's sports. Think about how deranged that is," said DeSantis.
Fried, a Democrat candidate for governor of Florida and one of the defendants in the Grant Park lawsuit, denied the claim that the program was under threat from the federal government in a statement last week.
"The National School Lunch Program has nothing to do with bathrooms, locker rooms, or sports. Our department passed on nondiscrimination guidelines from the federal government — which only apply to the lunch line — saying that children can't be discriminated against by being denied meals at school. That's it. Nothing else," stated Fried.
Fried claimed that the lunch program controversy was "just another culture war" for DeSantis "to wage to score political points to run for president."
"The only people who are inappropriately imposing sexuality in schools are Republicans who seem to be obsessed with which bathrooms kids are using," she added.
"It's perverted and deeply inappropriate. Governor DeSantis should be ashamed of himself and parents should be concerned about why he and his administration seem to be intent on sexualizing every aspect of schooling in Florida."