After receiving a letter from First Liberty Institute, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, Illinois, has reversed its position and approved senior Marcail McBride's request for a religious accommodation. Instead of completing the school's Student Gender and Sexuality Program, the school offered her an alternate assignment.
As CBN News reported on Feb. 2, McBride was threatened with disciplinary action for declining to participate in the program that violates her religious beliefs.
The IMSA requires students to complete the Student Gender and Sexuality Program before graduation. Students must agree to both "stay engaged" and "experience discomfort" while participating in the program, which uses sexual language to identify sexual preferences and gender identity.
In November, McBride's parents notified IMSA officials that their daughter could not participate in the program because it forces her to violate her religious beliefs. The IMSA leadership repeatedly denied the McBrides' request and threatened to punish Marcail if she would not participate in the program.
First Liberty Institute, a religious rights law firm, sent a letter to the IMSA, demanding the school immediately approve McBride's request. Attorneys with First Liberty reminded the school that the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act requires the IMSA to refrain from placing a substantial burden on the religious exercise of its students.
Illinois law states, "No pupil shall be required to take or participate in any class or course in comprehensive sex education if his parent or guardian submits written objection thereto, and refusal to take or participate in such course or program shall not be reason for suspension or expulsion of such pupil."
Keisha Russell, counsel to First Liberty Institute said the McBride family was pleased with the school's action.
"We are grateful to President Torres and school officials at IMSA for following the law by granting our client an accommodation," Russell said in a statement. "Schools should respect the religious beliefs of their students. Marcail and her parents are pleased that she will not be punished for acting according to her conscience."
The IMSA offers programs for talented students from 10th grade through 12th grade. The school's tuition-free residential educational program enrolls a diverse student body of 650 from all areas of Illinois; admission is highly competitive, according to the IMSA website.