Catholics are concerned that the lunch money could be leveraged to enforce policies contrary to Church teaching.
A recent change to the federal policy on sexual descrimination in primary schools could spell disaster for Catholic schools that rely on government subsidies.
In 2022, the Biden administration adjusted the Title IX ban on sexual discrimination to include “sexual orientation and gender identity.” The move could effectively give the government control over policies in schools that accept government funds — even private schools. This could lead to the enforcement of things contrary to Church teaching, such as allowing access to sex-segregated bathrooms and participation in sports based on gender preference.
This program, from the Department of Agriculture, assists schools by providing free school lunches to students of low-income households. The concern is that the state could use the lunch money as leverage to force private schools to comply with its agenda.
According to Catholic News Agency, 52% of Catholic schools receive funding from the National School Lunch Program. The changes could affect the school lunch of some 1.6 million students. As a result, many of these schools are preparing to sue the government for exemptions to the Title IX clause.
There has already been one such lawsuit, in which Grant Park Christian Academy, in Florida, sought and secured an exemption to the policy. This does not necessarily establish a precedent, however, and each Catholic school will be required to seek its own exemption.
Erica Steinmiller-Perdomo, legal counsel with the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, noted that such a rash of lawsuits will create a backlog of legal battles that could take years to settle. She told CNA:
“There is no telling how long it will take for the government to respond to them without a pending lawsuit … and they have no idea if they need to comply with the unlawful mandates in the meantime.”