PHOENIX, Arizona (LifeSiteNews) — An Arizona school board last month voted to end its five-year partnership with Arizona Christian University (ACU), citing concerns that the college’s faith-based values and evangelical mission failed to ensure “a safe place for our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and community.”
ACU’s president slammed the decision as “unlawful” and announced the college is exploring its options to defend its students.
The Washington Elementary School District, which operates schools in Phoenix and Glendale, made the decision to end the partnership after a meeting in which school board members criticized the college for promoting biblical values and teaching the Gospel, Fox News Digital reported Friday.
According to the report, the district’s partnership had meant that student teachers from ACU could be placed in district schools as part of their educator training, gaining valuable work experience and the opportunity to be hired upon graduation.
Those opportunities will no longer be available for ACU students, however, after the school board expressed deep concerns about the student teachers’ Christian beliefs and the effect of those beliefs on “the LGBT community” and non-Christians.
During the meeting, one school board member quoted the college website in noting that the college is “committed to Jesus Christ, accomplishing His will and advancements on earth as in Heaven.”
Tamillia Valenzuela, who wore cat ears to the meeting and describes herself as “a bilingual, disabled, neurodivergent Queer Black Latina” and a “community organizer,” said she “full-heartedly [sic] believe[s] in the religious freedom and people being able to practice whatever faith that they have.”
However, she argued that the evangelical message and mission of the school and its student teachers “makes me feel like I could not be safe in this school district.”
“Part of their values is … [to] ‘transform the culture with truth by promoting the Biblically informed values that are foundational to Western civilization, including the centrality of family, traditional sexual morality, and lifelong marriage between one man and one woman,'” she said.
“How does that hold space for people of other faiths?” she asked. “How does that hold space for our members of the LGBT community? How does that space for people who think differently and do not have the same beliefs?”
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Fellow school board member Kyle Clayton also chimed in, arguing that since the college teaches “with a Biblical lens,” “[p]roselytizing is embedded into how they teach. And I just don’t believe that that belongs in schools.”
In response to a request for comment from Fox News Digital, the school district explained its decision to dissolve the partnership “was based on the board’s commitment to create a safe place for our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and community.”
“This includes not knowingly entering into partnerships with any organization that explicitly discriminates against protected classes covered by our nondiscrimination policies,” the district stated.
Arizona Christian University president Len Munsil subsequently announced that the district’s decision was “wrong” and said the college is “exploring our options to defend the rights of our students.”
“The school board’s recent decision to ban ACU students from serving as student teachers was done for one reason only: our university’s commitment to our Christian convictions. That’s wrong, it’s unlawful, and it will only hurt the district’s students,” Munsil said in a statement to The Christian Post.
“Religious liberty and freedom of conscience are bedrock American principles. We are exploring our options to defend the rights of our students,” he said.
Meanwhile, the decision by the district to sever ties with ACU over its Christian evangelism in a bid to shield LGBT students and staff-members comes in spite of the fact that public schools’ own proselytizing of students into LGBT ideology is widely disfavored by Americans.
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A September 2022 poll by The New York Times with Siena College found that 70% of respondents, including 53% of those respondents who identified as Democrats, opposed letting teachers inculcate children into LGBT ideology, LifeSiteNews previously reported.