A state-funded Christian Preschool will shut its doors for good in May over fears that government regulations may trump Christian teachings. Authorities in the school say that they are wary of the way the government has continually cracked down on Christianity, with its secular worldview dominating campus guiding principles and curriculum.
After 40 years serving the community, Gateway Christian Preschool, an outreach ministry of Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola, will shut down. Since its inception in 2005, Gateway Christian Preschool has been an active participant in Florida’s pre-kindergarten program, which offers four-year-olds state funding to make up for the costs of classes that prepare them for kindergarten.
The preschool’s director, Barbara Deem, said that the funding from the government pays for about 60 percent of the preschool’s enrollment, noting that the state provides about $2,300 for every four-year-old annually. Families of the other 40 percent of the preschool’s children, aged between one and three, pay fees.
“There has always been some concern among a lot of people with taking any kind of government dollars as to whether or not the people could have a say in what you teach, your curriculum, whether or not it is a separation of church and state issue,” the preschool director told the site.
“We have built in a protection in our contract with the local coalition office that provides our services for the VPK so that we have time throughout the day that the state is not paying for in order to alleviate any possibility of being challenged on teaching Christian values on the government dollar.”
Deem continued to explain that the church elders “became increasingly concerned” about the prospect of government forcing the preschool to change its curriculum or even make alterations that are in conflict with the teachings of the church. According to her, the elders had also been “investigating other churches in other states that have been threatened with political changes.”
“Basically, they were asking whether or not there is a separation of church and state, can your status as an independent entity be challenged because you may not want to go with what is politically correct?” Deem continued. “They cite things such as installing transgender bathrooms or teaching values that are opposed to what the church actually stands for and the values that each independent church holds high.”
The preschool director notes, however, that the establishment hasn’t been criticized or threatened with political action yet, pointing out that many families who are not members of the church send their children to the preschool.