The lawsuit claiming that Calvary Church discriminates against students with medical conditions can proceed – but in a somewhat different form.
In a ruling released Friday, Gaston County Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell largely dismissed a call by the church’s lawyers to throw out the case. In a technical move, he also allowed the suing families to file a new complaint that adds the names of their children to the list of plaintiffs.
Some half dozen families have joined the complaint, which was filed in January. They accuse the church of discriminating against their preschool-aged children after they developed or were mistakenly perceived to have developed medical conditions. The suit alleges that the children were forced to leave the church’s child-development center.
In a hearing last month, lawyers for the families said longtime center director Pat Ross told one of the parents that the daycare and preschool prepare students for the finest private schools in Charlotte and did not have time to meet extensive medical needs.
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At the church’s request, Caldwell ordered the removal of portions of the original lawsuit as well as all the accompanying photographs and said they cannot be included in the new complaint. About 10 additional families had filed affidavits stating that their children were discriminated against for medical reasons. Under the judge’s ruling, those statements will also be thrown out.
Finally, the judge struck several of the original allegations, including one against Ross. However, he allowed the bulk of the complaint to proceed, including the parents’ claims of fraud, breach of contract, unfair and deceptive trade practices, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and punitive damages.
Calvary is a prominent, nondenominational evangelical church that towers above N.C. 51 in south Charlotte. About 850 children attend preschool or day care at its child development center, according to the church’s website.
The church’s lawyer, Mel Garofalo, has said the claims against Calvary are baseless.
Josh Van Kampen, the parents’ lead attorney, says Calvary’s pattern of discrimination goes back as least as far as 1989.