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Hey, thank you for the message. Congratulations on the new job. I actually have more experience in dealing with early childcare than most not only because I have a young child but because my girlfriend works in the field as well. As a result I’ve actually had quite a bit of exposure to the field.
It is actually extremely common to have religious orientated preschools and day cares unfortunately. When it comes to matters of the law though it is a bit hard to determine what is and isn’t okay. Any religious organization is allowed to discriminate based on religious beliefs. If a Catholic priest comes out to people that he does not believe he can be fired on grounds of religious belief, religious organizations are the only groups specifically to be granted that right. What remains unclear though is what exactly is a religious organization and what is not. If the preschool was run at a church and church funded (which I assume it’s not based on your description) it could be considered one, but it may not be, so you could be fired legally for not believing. The law has been fairly unclear on that portion of it.
When it comes to preschools in general there are not the same kind of rules and regulations that are in place for K-12 schools. There are no laws stating that a preschool must be secular. Each school is more or less allowed to come up with their own curriculum and ways of teaching it. There are different organizations that have their own requirements where a center can attempt to qualify for their backing. Step Up To Quality is one that comes to mind but schools are not at all required to conform to these programs.
I attempted to do a little searching but wasn’t able to find anything about preschool workers and religious discrimination. I honestly don’t know what the legal guidelines would be. If it is something that was not made clear to you in the employee handbook or at the time of hiring you may have grounds if you refused to participate and were fired for it. Many labor laws vary from state to state though so it is very hard to say if there is any kind of loophole in local laws that would make it okay, or at least give them a reasonable excuse.
Pre-K childcare is an extremely difficult job and my honest advice to you would be to try to find another center to work at if it is the type of job you want to pursue. Often times the turn over rate can be high, it is an extremely stressful job and takes a great deal of patience to be good at. It is much more difficult than many people give credit for. Chances are it will be easier for you to find a center that you can work at and still feel good about what you’re doing than it will be to get the center to change what has likely been its practice for years.
I know that seems like a bad answer and I definitely don’t like saying it’ll probably be easier to just get a different job but it is either that or prepare yourself for what would likely be a very difficult fight. As I said, I have no idea what the actual legal standings would be for that type of situation, but it is murky enough that I wouldn’t expect a very warm reaction from the preschool. Unfortunately I imagine it would be far more likely for them to tell you that if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be there. Best of luck either way and try to let me know what happens if you can.