In Virginia, City Officials Block Church Outreach to Disabled Children

PlaygroundIn Fredericksburg, Virginia, city officials have decided that their community is becoming “saturated” with facilities assisting disabled people – so much so, in fact, that they’ve decided that these efforts just have to stop somewhere.

So they’ve decided to stop them at Calvary Christian Church.

The pastor of Calvary Christian, Michael Hirsch, says he’s been sensing God’s leading for his congregation to reach out to disabled children in the area. So, the church – which already offers before- and after-school day care – applied for a permit to expand that ministry to include a day school program for mentally and emotionally disabled children. Each child who’s enrolled has been prescribed an Individual Education Plan that virtually ensures their successful development, provided they have the benefit of an attentive, private day school environment.

Members of the city’s Planning Commission held a public hearing, liked what they heard, and approved the plan and a special-use permit for the church’s facilities. But the city council overruled them and denied the permit, citing their concern for the safety of the non-disabled children in the church’s other daycare programs.

Surprised, church leaders pointed out that the disabled children would be on the campus at a completely different time than the other youngsters – their schedules wouldn’t overlap at all. The city council dismissed that explanation, though. They said that there was too great a “safety risk” to the daycare students by having the day school in the same building.

The city council’s actions violate the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prevents zoning officials from singling out churches for discriminatory treatment – a fact Alliance Defense Fund attorneys pointed out in the federal lawsuit they filed against the city on May 24.

“Churches shouldn’t be singled out for discrimination, especially when attempting to expand their ministries to safely serve the needs of the community – in this case, disabled children,” says ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “No disabled students would even be on campus at the same time as other students, and the church has the approval of planning officials because it has met all zoning requirements to run such a facility.  There’s no legitimate reason for a denial, so the city’s stated reasons only serve to feed old stereotypes about the disabled.”

Matthew Fender of Richmond, one of more than 2,000 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit. Please be in prayer for him and all the other ADF attorneys working to secure the freedom of churches nationwide to minister the love and truth of Jesus Christ to all the people in their communities.

Author: Alan Sears



  • Ginger Dunham

    Having a child that is considered disabled I am concerned that there is some idea that typically developing children are somehow in danger with children with disabilites around them.

  • Gloria McDaniel

    This is outrageous. The disabled children deserve the same treatment as any other child. That would not happen in Tennessee if it did some one would pay. Here all children are in public school together. They are still in the dark ages.
    Wake up people this is AMERICA. We have a disabled child in our immediate family.

  • Doug Gawne

    Amazing! Perhaps the “real” reason is the underlying fear that this ministry will actually follow the IEP to a “T”, properly educate these special needs children and bring shame on the State-run schools, and/or perhaps result in more young people trusting Christ as their Savior.

  • Jenny C

    Why is it even a concern that the schedules do not overlap? This makes no sense at all. It violates IDEA, ADA, and every other federal law currently in effect relating to educational opportunities for people with disabilities (at least those that I’m aware of). I’m suspicious that the article is leaving out other information that would at least give some credence to the city council’s argument. In this age of information overload, I doubt the city council is indeed seated with people spouting such ignorant statements in public. If true, they should be voted out.

  • Gloria McDaniel

    Its probably like all Government high level positions ,the majority of them have no clue what its like to have a disabled child and what is involved in the care of one. You just have to love them and hope and pray for the best.

  • Judy

    Another case of trying to eradicate Christian values and influence in our society. Now, had it been a secular, rather, New Age program or Yoga program or any other un-godly program for the handicapped, it may well have been approved.
    This is why Christians do need to get involved in local, including city counsel politics and run for offices.
    The Christian majority is being overwhelmingly discriminated against by the minority Left-wing minority, be it in our schools, our government, our Armed Forces, even our sheriff or police training programs, and out West, in the courts as well, though the majority may not agree with these PC influences, they are nonetheless taking over our society.
    Time to stop these Left-wing trends and Politically Correcct over-influence in virtually every aspect of our society.

  • Kevin Tomas

    I salute you, ADF. You are doing God’s work.

    Never fail to protect the innocent… in this case the church helping the disabled.

  • Carolyn

    Don’t they have it backwards? Shouldn’t disabled children be protected from the children without disabilities? What kind of disabilities do they think these children have? Do they think they are rabid, psychotic, itchy trigger fingered children?

  • Joe G. Jr.

    It’s very hard here to believe that all information is known or presented to us, to evaluate. What is some or all of he specific dangers that the city is claiming to be previlent, probable or possible. If any are valid then require protection against, if not then we must garner better representation and / or, be also willing to serve.

  • sheila

    How superficial can government get? There is another agenda behind the denial I’m sure. If anything, it would be beneficial for the children with no handicaps to interact with those less fortunate, in that they could perhaps learn not to take their health for granted while practicing the gift of compassion and love. The innocence of the deprived often bring us closer to God as we envision their acceptance of what is without resentment,bitterness or envy. The desire to eliminate or hide what we do not perceive to be beautiful or perfect as we seem to demand is what led to the holocaust in Germany. Is this where we are going to get the population under the magic number of 2 billion? In Ecc 1:9 The thing which has been is that which shall be:and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. God forbid and rebuke them