Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Court Rejects Charter School Challenge To Ban On Classroom Use of Bible

In Nampa Classical Academy v. Goesling, (D ID, May 17, 2010), an Idaho federal district court dismissed a challenge by a state funded charter school and two of its teachers to a policy adopted by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission. The Commission adopted the view of the state attorney general that the use of religious documents or texts in a public charter school classroom would violate Art. IX, Sec. 6 of the Idaho Constitution. That section prohibits the use of sectarian books or documents in public school classrooms. Teachers at the Academy wanted to use primary source documents-- including the Bible and the Koran-- in teaching their courses and argued that the ban violated their and their students' 1st and 14th Amendment rights.

The court held that the charter school itself is a political subdivision of the State and therefore has no privileges or immunities to invoke against the State. It held defendants had qualified immunity as to claims by other plaintiffs. Here it is the defendants-- state school officials-- who are the speakers, and they have the right to lawfully control the content of their speech. They are adhering to the Establishment Clause by barring use of religious texts in publicly funded schools. Idaho Press Tribune reports on the decision. (See prior related posting.)

The Charter Commission will hold a previously scheduled hearing on June 11 on revoking the Academy's charter, in part because the Commission believes the school has not complied with the order to avoid using religious documents.