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You raise an excellent point, and one I have mentioned to the board of directors of a new local charter school. They are aware the school district is watching them closely, yet they are testing the law by giving students curriculum materials which read like excerpts from the Bible. What if these materials pertained to the Koran, or Buddhism?
I believe that before a private school is opened, the group that is looking into opening the school should make sure their finances can keep the institution running. I am aware that the amount of money a group earns is not certain and their income can have a sudden drop. Still, the group should also seek other ways of acquiring the finances if their own are not adequate to keep the institution running.
I believe the First Amendment gives us freedom of religion -- NOT freedom from religion.
Once again it's the camel's nose under the tent. The place for religious teaching is at a home or church, not a public-funded school. I would approve of mythology and beliefs class in the context of social sciences, that looked a variety of strongly held political or religious beliefs in the context of mythology, the studies of wars and religion. This seems to be an important part of a core curriculum. But using the charter school movement to fund idolatry seems suspect. Why wouldn't it be just as suspect to invest in church-based schools.
I am deeply concerned as to how religious organizations can misuse such rules and regulations. I believe the average individual is quite "naive" and does not understand the ramifications of this direction.
As I write this opinion, there are school districts currently dealing with huge issues, especially with the financial, idealogical ramifications of religious groups' impact on public education.
My sincere belief is that this is a "pandora's box" with consequences that will deeply wound our public schools and public education.
There is a book about the subject. Religious Charter Schools: Legalities and Practicalities.
This book explores the constitutionality of religion-based charter schools. The method of analysis uses hypothetical charter schools to answer legal questions. The answers are grounded in law using the latest precedent. The background material before examining charters sets forth both the legal and policy contexts of religious charters schools. The legal context includes a detailed analysis of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution focusing on the most recent Supreme Court cases on that topic. The policy analysis examines the normative and structural dimensions of charter schools, which are then compared with voucher programs. The historical, political and educational contexts of charter programs are also examined. The book concludes that charter schools present an opportunity for parents and communities to form charter schools that will accommodate their beliefs; however, the constitution does not allow them to form schools that endorse their beliefs.
I suggest a test that will help in the understanding of why teaching religion in school is unconstitutional. Substitute instruction in the Koran, (or Apache, or Hindi, etc) for instruction in the Bible. I makes it easier to understand why it is undesirable. This does not preclude teaching "about" religion...all religions, and why and how religion has had a tremendous influence on world history. But teaching the Bible in American schools can be equated with the Madrassas, religious schools in Moslem countries.
I witnessed today President Bush taking the opportunity of a Katrina memorial to highlight MLK charter school in New Orleans. Before Bush spoke the students were required to pray and to listen to religious preaching by the school director.
This was a clear violation of church-state separation and should not be tolerated. It is inappropriate for any religious institution to receive public funds; regardless of how unbiased the decision-making process appears to be. It is even more inappropriate in the context of education in which participation is mandated and choice may be limited.
I fully support the concept of charter or voucher schools, especially as a transition to the full privatization of education. The potential for these programs to improve quality and foster innovation in education must not be compromised by religious indoctrination, and the principle of church-state separation must not be undermined in the interest of achieving short-term goals.
I see no problem in allowing schools with a religious charter to receive public funding--that is if all religions are given an equal opportunity to utilize the public funds and the government does interfere in the charter schools' curricula and programming. Can anyone give an example of a Christian school that has been given a public charter? To approve a charter for a Hebrew school or an Islamic school on the basis that they are cultural schools which enrich our society while at the same time disallowing such funding for Christian schools is inequitable and overtly discriminatory. These two charters should be ruled unconstitutional unless schools of any religious orientation are also able to qualify for charters in the same states.
If a tax-supported charter school is allowed to use my money to pay for religious courses, so should the tax-supported public high school down the street.
This neither agrees or disagrees with the yes/no options presented for this poll. Simply put, whatever public funds support should be acceptable for all institutions supported by funds extorted for the same purpose.
That said, in either case, the religious aspects should not be "taught", but rather an acceptable backdrop to the educational charge.