Christian school raided by California gov't as religious freedom concerns cloud future

by Samuel Smith , Christian Post Contributor |

(JEFFREY HAMILTON/UNSPLASH)

A Christian boarding school run by Teen Rescue in Northern California faces the possibility of closing after it was raided by state investigators earlier this year. The head of the school claims that its First Amendment rights, as well as parental rights, are being violated.

River View Christian Academy (RVCA), which serves to help troubled teens from across the U.S., has faced pressure from the Department of Social Services for over a decade over claims that it operates as an "unlicensed community care facility."

Although the school had maintained through the years that schools are exempt from community care facility regulations, a law passed in 2016 requires many alternative boarding schools in the state to attain Community Care Licensing.

But in order to attain that licensing, the school fears that it would not be able to uphold its rules reflecting traditional Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. Additionally, the school says that the state requires licensed facilities to allow students to have the right to engage in spiritual and sexual exploration.

Additionally, the law does not allow for religious exemptions in cases where a religious school would be forced to violate its moral convictions.

"We have been kind of harassed by the state of California Department of Social Services. Specifically, it's called Community Care Licensing," RVCA CEO Phil Ludwig told The Christian Post, arguing that state investigators seem to have a political "agenda."

According to Ludwig, DSS investigators have investigated the school on a number of occasions through the years to ensure that it was not operating in any way that would make it classified as a community care facility.

The school contends that it falls under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Education and files an affidavit every year that it is an accredited private boarding school.

According to a lawsuit filed against DSS, a team of 16 armed law enforcement from the California Highway Patrol (CHP), 2 canine units, and 17 social workers searched the school on Jan. 18.

According to the lawsuit, the state later admitted that the raid was prompted by an article online from a left-leaning tabloid that made the investigators think that the school was housing illegal drugs and stockpiling weapons to prepare for an end-times apocalypse.

Although the raid did not result in the discovery of drugs or guns, the school says that DSS began imposing daily fines of about $200 for operating as an "unlicensed community care facility" under the Community Care Facilities Act of 2016.

"Until 2016, River View Christian Academy was exempt from licensure under the Community Care Facilities Act," the lawsuit reads. "The religious practices of River View Christian Academy violate portions of the Community Care Facilities Act. This regulation poses an existential threat to religious schools such as River View Christian Academy."

Among other things, the school stresses that it could be forced to accommodate religious rituals that are inconsistent with the Christian faith and could even be forced to teach all religions from a neutral standpoint.

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