Religious freedom and parental rights are being threatened in California by a recently passed bill, SB524. Through this bill, the state of California is attempting to deny all boarding schools from being certified by the California Department of Education and force them under the supervision of the Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD). This not only takes away the religious right to be a faith based school, but it also takes away the right of the parents to place their children in such a school.
On 3/13/2019, with the help of the Pacific Justice Institute, Teen Rescue, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the State of California. The purpose of this lawsuit is to correct CCLD’s infringement on Religious Freedom and Parental Rights. These are inherent rights granted to us by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States.
Historically, Community Care Licensing is the agency that governs facilities that care for children who DO NOT have parents or legal guardians, such as group homes and foster care. Never in the history of California has CCLD been allowed to dictate the supervision of children who do have parents or legal guardians. Until now.
Community Care Licencing does not allow entities under their supervision to be exclusively Christian or any other religion. Not only does Community Care Licencing prevent schools from exercising their religious freedom, but they enforce extremely restrictive rules that would be contrary to many parent’s wishes.
If SB524 is allowed to go on uncontested, it will also set a precedent for future bills to force private day schools out from the Department of Education and under CCLD’s authority. On the surface, SB524 looks like a positive bill that is intended to ensure safe environments for children. However, when you look more closely, you will see that the bill is so broad and vaguely defined, that it has much more far reaching repercussions than it implies.
This bill sets a precedent to restrict all religious schools from teaching their religious convictions to students and will further violate parental rights.
Additionally, this bill impacts any faith based agency or organization that attempts to care for children and will preclude them from doing so as a faith-based organization. As Christians, or any person of faith, we need to take a stand that it is unacceptable for the state to have sole authority over the care (and soon education) of children.
Who will be impacted?
Currently, this affects all boarding schools in California. But removing one word from the bill is all that it will take to begin targeting private day schools as well.
If your school is a religious day school, you should be extremely concerned about how they will control your ability to teach your convictions and faith.
Parents, you should also be very concerned about the infringement on your right to choose a faith based school for your child. The Fourteenth Amendment grants you the right to direct the education of your child and instill the moral standards and religious beliefs of your choosing. The state should not be impeding your right to choose a school where your child will be taught according to your beliefs and values.
It will also create a monopoly where only the state will be permitted to care for children in any way, shape or form. Any facility that cares for children medically, socially, behaviorally, or psychologically, will be forced under CCLD’s purview and the state will have full control of these areas. This will be the case even when there is a parent or guardian involved and will supersede any parental rights. Parental decisions would be overruled by the state of California in spite of the parent’s wishes.
Who are we?
Teen Rescue is a non-profit organization that owns and operates River View Christian Academy (RVCA). RVCA is an accredited boarding school with credentialed teachers that is certified by the California Department of Education. Our boarding school was established in 1993 and has been certified by the Department of Education for 25 years.
In spite of not being within their jurisdiction, Community Care Licensing has visited our campus on numerous occasions. Many of these visits were the result of “anonymous” complaints that claim RVCA was acting as an unlicensed group home.
CCLD subsequently served a search warrant and thoroughly investigated our school. They interviewed our students and staff and reviewed all of our records. During this investigation, it was made evident to our staff that CCLD was not looking for the truth, but had an agenda to prove the “complaint” to be true. One of our staff members overheard a CCLD investigator tell another, “Don’t take pictures of the library. It makes them look too much like a school.”
In spite of this clear agenda and unethical behavior, RVCA was later confirmed by Tom Stahl, the Regional Manager of CCLD at the time, to be in compliance with our certification under the Department of Education and that the complaint was unfounded.
However, further showing CCLD’s agenda, the final report after the meeting with Tom Stahl claimed that their investigation was “inconclusive”. Inconclusive in spite of the fact that their previous 3 day warrant and in-depth investigation, with our full cooperation, found NOTHING that RVCA was doing wrong or would cause us to be in violation of our certification under the Department of Education. Inconclusive in spite of Tom Stahl’s statement, which we have on a recorded statement that he was “satisfied there is no unlicensed supervision [at RVCA]”. In our opinion, the investigation was deemed “inconclusive” to allow them to leave the case open indefinitely and give them time to find another excuse to continue their harassment of our school.
At the beginning of this year, CCLD returned to our campus with another warrant to again search our files and our entire campus, including private staff residences, and interview our staff and students. This time they arrived unannounced with 17 investigators and an additional 16 armed California Highway Patrol officers. The student interviews were threatening and conducted without parent permission, showing their complete lack of respect for the parents’ rights. CCLD refused to tell us what generated this investigation, but they implied that it was related to SB524.
In our 25 years as a school, RVCA has never had a complaint of child abuse. Nor has RVCA ever been cited for any type of violation, let alone a licensing violation. Yet, CCLD has continued to harass us for years for no other reason than that they want full and complete control over the care of children in the state of California. And they are using the vague and unspecified definitions in SB524 to further infringe on the rights of parents and religious organizations.
As people of faith, we cannot stand idly by while the government slowly, but surely, whittles away our religious freedom. Nor can we allow the state to substitute its own judgement in place of the parents’ on matters of religion and moral issues.
We believe that this has gone too far and is a clear abuse of power under the color of authority.
For more information, please visit our website: standingforfaith.org
Please contact your church, school, local government officials and express your concern over this abuse of power. And please consider donating. Thank you.
CEO Teen Rescue, Inc.