Christian Privilege in Day-Care

Kids at daycareWhat if you were a restaurant owner and you learned that Christian-owned restaurants are exempt from health inspections? While you have to maintain rigorous health and safety standards in order to pass surprise governmental inspections, restaurants owned and operated by Christians had no such requirements. Sounds far-fetched, doesn't it? What if I told you that something much like this scenario was true - not for restaurants but for day-care centers?

When a parent sends his or her child to day-care, this is typically not a decision taken lightly. The parent has probably investigated countless day-care centers and asked trusted friends for recommendations. Cost is often a consideration, but safety is even more important. After all, we're talking about entrusting strangers with the care of one's child.

At least parents can take some consolation in the knowledge that state governments license day-care centers, providing some quality assurance. Government inspectors may utilize surprise visits to examine the criminal records of center employees, potential health and safety violations, and other items which most parents would find distressing. At least, that is the case for secular day-care centers.

You see, in Florida, only secular day-care centers can be inspected by licensing officials. Faith-based day-care centers are off-limits and actually exempt from state licensing requirements.
Florida is one of a dozen states that has such exemptions, which are meant to lessen the red tape faith-based groups have to go through but, according to critics, can also open a loophole that shields some day-care facilities from badly needed oversight.
Unfortunately, efforts to close this inappropriate loophole required the death of an innocent 2-year-old from being left in a center van in Daytona Beach in 2001. When the initial version of this post was written in 2007, little had changed. And since then, the religious exemption persists in spite of the consequences. As of 2018, the faith-based exemption appears to be alive and well. And sadly, this is not limited to Florida.

Not surprisingly, some of the faithful Christians who operate these centers oppose any sort of regulation. Others actually converted their centers to faith-based operations to avoid having to deal with state inspectors. If granting licensing exemptions for faith-based day-cares isn't an example of Christian privilege, I don't know what is!

An early version of this post appeared at Atheist Revolution in 2007. It was updated in 2018 in an effort to call attention to this persistent problem.