Gateway Christian Preschool has been giving young children in Pensacola, Florida a Biblical education for four decades, but now the school is closing because its state-funded pre-kindergarten could force the church to compromise religious teaching.
The preschool’s Director, Barbara Deem, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the decision was made by the church’s eldership after elders came to the decision that the preschool and its involvement in the state-funded Voluntary pre-kindergarten subsidy program could one day become a “liability” to the church.
Florida’s voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) program pays the majority of the school’s tuition–about $2,300 annually per 4-year-old child. Families paying tuition for 1 to 3 year-olds make up the rest of the school’s revenue.
With the rise of court decisions and regulations dealing with transgender access, government dollars going to Christian organizations can give church elders reason to pause. Gateway Church of Christ–the parent ministry of the preschool–decided to play it safe and simply get out of the business.
“I knew the discussions were ongoing and I had been a part of those discussions. I cannot tell you that I support the decision,” Deem, who taught at the preschool for over 14 years before becoming its director nearly a decade ago, said. “I do not [support the decision] for a number of personal reasons, but to say that it was a complete shock, no it wasn’t. To say that the final word that came down is that they did decide to go in this direction, honestly, as a Christian leader, I was surprised.”
I am surprised also. Playing it safe is what the anti-God crowd wants from the church. They want every church that offers more than a Sunday service to withdraw from public service.
That means no adoption services (in Massachusetts and other states, Catholic Charities have closed rather than be forced to comply with placing children in gay couple households), no public wedding venues, and, if churches start doing what Gateway has done, no Christian schools.
My wife teaches at a Christian preschool. The church we attend (not where she works) operates a public, state-funded daycare–consistently voted “best of the best” in the area. Both operate according to Christian principles. If these churches decided to play it safe, hundreds of kids would have to find another school or daycare, not to mention the staff being put out of work.
This is ultimately what the “bake that cake” bigots want. They want faith in the closet on Sunday mornings. They want a powerless god and a dead religion that shrinks from a fight. They want a faithless flock who runs at the first sign of trouble.
“So, the leadership here was just investigating those things and they became concerned over the possibility of actions being taken because the school is here and maybe a possible liability because we have so many families that come in,” [Deem] added. “We have not had any threats. We have not had anyone come and challenge these issues. I have had this position for nine years and I have never had anyone come and question us about our teachings. If anything, it is quite the opposite. They are happy that their children are getting some Christian education at an early age.”
Deem said the leadership of Gateway Church of Christ made this decision “to protect the congregation as a whole against any potential threat.” Running from a potential threat offers no protection. The best protection is faith in the name and power of Jesus Christ.
I hope that Gateway’s elders reconsider and reverse this terrible decision. May other churches learn from this that the battle cannot be won by surrendering. That is exactly what the enemies of our faith want.