Saturday, March 17, 2018

School Challenges Ban on Bibles in Idaho Public Schools

June 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles, World News


The Nampa Classical Academy is challenging the dismissal of a federal lawsuit against Idaho officials who barred the use of the Bible and other religious texts as a classroom teaching tool, attorneys said Monday.

The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based group of Christian lawyers, contend to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a federal judge erred when he threw out Nampa Classical Academy’s case last year.

“A wholesale ban on books with religious content conflicts with established U.S. Supreme Court precedent,” said David Cortman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

The academy sued the Idaho Public Charter School Commission in September 2009, saying the state had illegally barred use of the Bible as an instructional text. At the time, Cortman said he had never seen such a broad-reaching ban on using the Bible as a resource in public schools.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge dismissed the case last month, saying the ban did not violate the school’s rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court banned ceremonial school Bible readings in 1963 but said “the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities” so long as material is “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.”

Public schools across the country have traditionally avoided Bible courses and the potential controversy but hundreds do offer voluntary classes to students.

The Nampa charter school opened last fall with about 550 students and planned to use the Bible as a primary source of teaching material but not to teach religion. The Bible would be introduced in the ninth grade, when students delve into the history of Western civilization, for its literary and historic qualities as part of a secular education program.

The plan prompted the state’s charter school commission to review use of religious texts in the classroom.

The commission concluded in August that the school could not use the Bible, adopting Idaho deputy attorney general Jennifer Swartz’s opinion, which said the state constitution “expressly” limits use of religious texts.

In a memo to the commission, Swartz acknowledged federal law may permit certain secular uses of the Bible in educational settings. But she also added: “The Idaho Constitution and Idaho courts are consistently more restrictive with respect to separation of church and state in connection with public schools.”

The Nampa charter school has since pointed out that the use of religious texts goes unchecked elsewhere. Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy in northern Idaho has used the Bible in literature classes since 1999.

The commission, however, did not authorize the Coeur d’Alene school to open and does not govern its operations, said Tamara Baysinger, the state’s charter schools program manager.

“It’s not that we believe that one school should be able to use the texts and another shouldn’t but that we have oversight over one school but not the other,” she said.

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