Monday, August 3, 2009

Charter school's use of Bible ignites public firestorm


Scripture in curriculum incites ACLU investigation, state review

By Drew Zahn
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

A new charter school planning to open this fall in Idaho has come under fire since it publicly announced one of the textbooks students will be using is the Bible.

Unlike a typical public school, the Nampa Classical Academy has the freedom under Idaho's Public Charter School Commission to develop its own curriculum. Students will be taught, for example, Latin and Western civilization, but it's the school's choice to use the Bible as a historical and literary text that has ignited a public firestorm.

At a meeting of the Public Charter School Commission, parents stood and argued for and against allowing the Bible to be used in the school.

The American Civil Liberties Union plans to launch an investigation.

"Our main concern is the separation of church and state and that the state is not funding or endorsing a specific religion," Monica Hopkins, director of the ACLU of Idaho told the Idaho Press-Tribune.

The Public Charter School Commission has directed staff to review the legality of using the Bible in charter schools.

Even Idaho's Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Swartz, according to the Press-Tribune, has raised concerns that the Bible – even if it used in a purely secular manner – may not be allowed in the classroom under the Idaho Constitution.

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Academy founder Isaac Moffet, however, has repeatedly argued that the Bible will be used only as one of many religious texts – including the Quran and the writings of Confucius – to instruct students in history and literature and that there is no plan to indoctrinate children in any religious faith.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has held in many cases that public schools may teach about religion, including the Bible or other Scripture," Moffett told the Press-Tribune. "The Court has also held that public schools may use the Bible in the study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion or the like."

Furthermore, Moffet has said, the Commission stepping in to censor use of the Bible would violate the intent of creating charter schools in the first place.

"One of the aspects of a charter school is to be autonomous and make the decisions at the local level, such as the curriculum they use," Moffett said. "If a charter school cannot have its own curriculum, why have a charter school?"

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