Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging Idaho Public Charter School Commission’s ban on religious texts even when used for historical reference
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
BOISE, Idaho — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys are considering all available options for appeal of a federal judge’s decision Tuesday to dismiss Nampa Classical Academy’s lawsuit challenging the Idaho Public Charter School Commission’s ban on the use of religious texts in its curriculum. ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of the academy last November after the state’s charter commission threatened to revoke the academy’s charter if it used the Bible or other religious texts on its classroom resource list.
“Censoring books, including religious books, is not the proper way to educate children,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “Children deserve a complete education, which is what Nampa Classical Academy provides. Moreover, the court’s opinion requiring the removal of religious books to comply with the so-called ‘separation of church and state’ conflicts with established U.S. Supreme Court precedent stating that ‘the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.’”
Cortman explained that, contrary to the ruling from the court, the local school district is the entity allowed by law to make the ultimate determination on how to implement the state’s curriculum standards.
“And the curriculum it chose, in this case, is fully within what the U.S. Supreme Court has stated is acceptable and constitutional,” Cortman said. “If we proceed with appeal, we trust the decision will be reversed.”
Last year, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission told Nampa Classical Academy, which planned to open its public charter school with more than 500 students, that it would not be able to include the Bible as any part of its curriculum–or its charter would be revoked.
The academy has been in the development process for more than six years. It received approval from the State Board of Education in 2008 and received positive responses from the commission at each stage of its development, but the commission then endeavored to completely exclude the Bible from any use in the charter school, as well as all other public schools within the state. Eventually, the commission voted to prohibit the academy from using any “religious documents and text” in its curriculum or in its classroom, even if it is used objectively as a curriculum resource.
“Nampa Classical Academy is endeavoring to exercise its right to provide the best possible education for its students and has decided to include the Bible, along with dozens of other religious and secular writings, as resources in its curriculum to enrich instruction of literature, history, and culture, among other topics,” Cortman explained. “Schools have been doing this throughout American history.”
Attorney Bruce Skaug of Nampa is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit, Nampa Classical Academy v. Goesling, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.