Fla. county drops $250 daily fines against church operating school for at-risk kids

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A Florida county agreed Monday to waive a daily $250 fine levied on a church that operated a school for children with learning disabilities after the church filed legal action against it.

Englewood Church of the Nazarene, also known as Crosspoint Church, voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit against Sarasota County this week after the two parties reached a settlement.

According to the settlement, Sarasota will waive all accrued fines and allow Crosspoint to operate its school. Each party will handle their own fees and court costs, with neither party admitting any wrongdoing.

Crosspoint was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm that has successfully argued cases at the United States Supreme Court.

ADF Legal Counsel Kyle McCutcheon said in a statement released Monday that his organization supported the settlement decision.

“We commend Sarasota County for changing course, approving Crosspoint’s zoning request, and reimbursing the church’s hefty application fee,” said McCutcheon.

“The county already allows the church to host a secular charter school on its property and has now correctly determined that Crosspoint has an equal right to host a private Christian school that’s motivated by its convictions.”

In 2013, Crosspoint started a faith-based school to help at-risk students. In 2016, the county told the church that it required a special exemption to operate a school on its property that had more than 25 students; the school had twice that number enrolled.

The church submitted an application for the exemption, which came with a cost of $10,000. However, the county rejected the application and started fining the church $250 a day.

In March, Crosspoint filed a lawsuit against the county. Christiana Holcomb of the ADF explained at the time that the church was being treated unfairly compared to local secular entities.

“Secular charter schools are allowed to locate in that zone without a special permit,” Holcomb said last March, according to news outlet WTSP.

“What the county has done here clearly violates federal law. The government can’t treat religious schools worse than it treats secular groups. That’s what Sarasota County has done in this case.”

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