According to a recent article from NBC News, two of the top banks in Florida have announced that they will cut off millions of dollars in donations to the state’s private school voucher program after allegations from the Orlando Sentinel and some Democratic lawmakers that some of the schools participating in the program are “discriminatory” toward LGBT students.
The original reporting on the supposed discrimination was done by the Orlando Sentinel, which “examined student handbooks, application forms, statements of faith and other documents as well as websites of affiliated churches and associations” in drawing its conclusions.
The Sentinel found that “all of the schools… with anti-gay [sic] policies were Christian, with the largest group — about 45 percent — Baptist.”
Aided by retweets from Democratic lawmakers in Florida, the story gained traction and eventually motivated the two banks — Fifth Third Bank and Wells Fargo — to pull their donations from the voucher program.
Additionally, according to NBC News, the Sentinel’s report also led state Sen. Darryl Rouson to draft a bill prohibiting any school from receiving voucher funding if they deny enrollment to students because of “race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
Many Christian school administrators in Florida condemned the pressure being brought to bear by the banks and legislators. Howard Burke, executive director of the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, told the Sentinel, “Students don’t need to go to that school if they feel that is going to be a problem for their families and their lifestyles.” And Wayne Smith, head of one Christian school whose campus is housed on Church grounds, argued, ” A fundamental tenant of our Democracy is the right to hold and express varying beliefs and viewpoints, which includes beliefs and viewpoints informed by one’s religious convictions,” and the state’s Democratic lawmakers seemed to be trying to violate that right.
It is unlikely that the bill filed by Rouson and others like it that are being considered will pass the Florida legislature. But the power of the purse is still being levied against these Christian schools, which in some cases merely have codes of Christian conduct for staff and teachers as cause for the Sentinel’s branding as “discriminatory,” and the children of many Christian children in Florida may be forced into schools espousing values contrary to their faith as a result of this financial pressure.