Massachusetts city concedes to Christian school
In a turnaround, Somerville school board approves church’s school launch plan
Leaders of Vida Real Church in Somerville, Mass., celebrated this week. The city’s school committee, in an 8-1 vote Monday evening, approved the church’s Christian school for opening. The committee’s decision was the culmination of a monthslong dispute between Vida Real and school district officials who questioned the church’s religious beliefs.
“This is a time to celebrate for us!” Christian Cole, a pastor at Vida Real, said in a written statement issued after Monday’s vote. “After months of battling with the school committee, we will finally have a private CHRISTIAN school in Somerville where parents can send their children to learn in an environment that reflects their values.”
The largely Hispanic church has been locked in a battle with the school committee (the Massachusetts term for a school board) since filing its application for approval in September 2021. This February, a subcommittee recommended that the full board deny approval and raised objections to the church’s teaching of the Biblical account of creation, its views on homosexuality, and its beliefs that mental illness may be caused by demonic activity. In Massachusetts, elected local school committees are responsible for approving the launch of a private school.
But the church continued to press its case, bringing on board both the Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) and First Liberty Institute for legal support. MFI President Andrew Beckwith credited the victory to the church’s perseverance: “As the outrageous comments from some of the school committee members demonstrate, families and churches in Massachusetts need to be continuously vigilant in defense of their rights to raise their children consistently with their faith.”
School committee members acknowledged the proposed school’s First Amendment right to teach a Biblical worldview, but appeared unhappy about it. “I think it’s hard to have to vote for a school that has so many values that I don’t agree with, but I see the law is what it is in this case and I don’t see we have much of an option,” said Ilana Krepchin, vice chairwoman of the school committee. “I just have to say this whole process seems a bit nutty.” Fellow committee member Laura Pitone added that it was “incredibly emotionally painful for some people in the community to have this type of school in our community.”
The sole “no” vote, school committee member Sara Dion, has used her official TikTok account to promote progressive causes, including support for abortion and use of transgender pronouns for young children. According to MFI’s Beckwith, Dion stated at the March meeting of the committee that she believed it was her duty to vote against the school, despite the law on the matter.
Beckwith said the school hopes to open in the fall, but it still has administrative hoops to jump through, including obtaining a certificate of occupancy and other approvals. None of those is a given, at least on any quick time frame. He said colleagues in the charter school system indicate gaining school committee approval, while crucial, is only the first in a series of steps that can be slowed by an administrative bureaucracy not necessarily friendly to nonpublic schools.
But this week, Vida Real Church is rejoicing. “We’ve heard from so many parents concerned about the perverted sexual ideologies their children are being force-fed in the public schools and who are desperate for a healthy educational alternative with a Biblical worldview,” said Cole. “Both as a pastor and a parent, I rest assured knowing I will soon be able to send my children to Real Life Learning Center.”
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