A lawsuit is challenging Idaho officials who contend the state constitution forbids use of the Bible in a charter school opening this fall.
The Alliance Defense Fund has filed an action against the Idaho Public Charter School Commission on behalf of Nampa Classical Academy, which, the ADF reports, was threatened with the revocation of its charter if it uses the Bible or any other religious documents or text as part of its curriculum resources.
“The Bible shouldn’t be singled out for censorship in public schools, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that it is entirely constitutional for it to be studied objectively as an educational resource,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “The commission is basing its determination to revoke the charter on its mistaken interpretation of the state constitution’s establishment clause. The authors of the Idaho Constitution clearly understood that history cannot be adequately taught without reference to significant religious texts. The commission’s interpretation is quite obviously not what constitution’s authors intended.”
According to the ADF, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission told Nampa Classical Academy, which is opening its public charter school with more than 500 students this year, that its charter will be revoked if it includes the Bible as any part of its curriculum.
Spokeswoman Tamara Baysinger of the Charters Schools program said the organization wasn’t commenting on the issue at this point, instead referring a reporter to a legal opinion that was given to the board.
According to deputy Attorney General Jennifer Swartz, the state constitution “limits use of religious texts expressly.”
She quoted from the document statements that “religious test and teaching in schools prohibited. No religious test or qualification shall ever be required of any person as a condition of admission into any public education institution of the state, either as teacher or student, and no teacher or student of any such institution shall ever be required to attend or participate in any religious services whatever. No sectarian or religious tenets or doctrines
shall ever be taught in the public schools, nor shall any distinction or
classification of pupils be made on account of race or color. No books, papers,
tracts or documents of a political, sectarian or denominational character shall be
used or introduced in any schools established under the provisions of this article,
nor shall any teacher or any district receive any of the public school moneys in
which the schools have not been taught in accordance with the provision of the
However, the state Department of Education’s own website promotes a teaching resource under “Readings for Writers” that includes this description of its content: “a passionate defense of Islam by a Muslim faithful.”
Neither the charter organization nor the state education department responded to WND’s requests to clarify the situation.
“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.”
The complaint itself notes, “The Bible is arguably the most influential book that has ever been written. Along with being the best-selling book of all time, its influence in music, art, and literature is unparalleled. References to its stories, lessons and history can be found in innumerable books, movies, plays, artwork, and even in our every day language. It was one of the first resources ever
used in this country’s public schools to teach students to read.”
However, “defendants have decided that the Bible is now a banned book in every public school throughout the state of Idaho.”
Further, the lawsuit notes the Idaho Board of Education already has approved the use of the Bible “as literature in public education curricula.”
“The Idaho Constitution, article IX, section 6, upon which the denial was based,
does not prohibit ‘religious documents or text.’ Rather it prohibits ‘books, papers, tracts or
documents of a political, sectarian or denominational character’ and prohibits ‘sectarian or
religious tenets or doctrines,'” the lawsuit said.
“Defendants conveniently ignore the constitution’s prohibition on political documents, which exists in precisely the same constitutional provision, and which has not been enforced at all against any public school,” it said.
“According to defendants’ hyper-strict construction of this
provision, it would be unconstitutional for public schools to study the Declaration of
Independence or the Mayflower Compact; two obviously political (and arguably religious) documents.”
And while the Bible would be used as a resource, it would not be taught as religion, nor would it be alone, the lawsuit confirmed.
“Some examples of ‘religious documents or text’ that the academy intends to use include
those from or about the Bible, the Koran, the Book or Mormon, Confucianism, Hinduism,
the Epic of Gilgamesh, ancient Egyptian religions, Hesiod Theogony Works and Days (Greek gods), the Code of Hammurabi (Babylonian), Assyrian religion, Roman gods, Eastern
religions, Mesopotamian religion, etc.”
Other public school classrooms already discuss “Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.”
“Just by way of example of the many schools across the state that utilize religious documents
as part of their curriculum in accordance with the state curriculum content standards, the
Independent School District of Boise City incorporates into its curriculum or studies:
‘sacred texts: the Book of the Dead, Hebrew: Genesis [the Bible], Rig Veda [Hinduism], and
the Koran [Islam];’ native American spiritual world, Puritan theological studies, Theism, and
Transcendentalism,” the lawsuit said.
Such a rule as announced by the charter school organization “would exclude reading many of our founding documents which contain many Biblical quotations and test,” the lawsuit said.
The result is “such selective enforcement” that reveals “defendants are indeed targeting plaintiffs for discrimination in their use of religious and political texts as part of their curriculum because
every school in the state utilizes political documents as part of their curriculum.”
“If you think of the great works of literature that have been produced, particularly in Western civilization since the dawn of Christianity, immense percentages of those [works] have been influenced and driven by biblical concepts and themes,” Bryan Fischer, the executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance, said.
“So we are impoverishing our students by not exposing them to the themes of Scripture. So what … this public charter school is intending to do in Idaho is exactly the right thing. They’re trying to plug that vacuum that’s existed in the American educational system when it comes to the literature of the Bible.”