Several local churches in Oconee county have proposed offering elective Bible classes at a new “Christian Learning Center” for county high school students. The CLC would be offsite and thus tight coordination between the county and the center would be necessary (exiting the campus, transportation, returning, etc.). The proposal is currently before the Oconee County School Board who has not yet made a decision. Although proponents say “freedom of religion” and opponents “separation of church and state”, neither of these slogans are useful in arriving at a decision where the question before the board doesn’t fit either narrative precisely.
Were this question before a private school board it would be easy to answer. There would be no “right” or “wrong” answer. The course of action should be whatever those running the school want to do. If parents disagree they are free to take their children, and tuition dollars, elsewhere. In the end it is the parents who have the veto power, a power they can wield immediately.
But this is not a private institution. It is a public one. And that means we parents and/or citizens have zero ability to vote with our dollars by transferring our tuition (property taxes) somewhere else. Sure we can vote, but board members have 4 year terms so one’s child is likely to be graduated before the opportunity to even attempt to do something arrives. Voting itself might be free, but it’s not without costs. You must expend enormous resources trying to convince all those around you to vote the same, otherwise your voice is silenced.
So given the fact that we parent and taxpayers have zero voice in decisions such as these, there must be a different standard when it comes to such curriculum. Non-ideological electives (languages, music, sports, etc.) favor no particular group. But ideologically drive electives, such as the proposed CLC, are an attempt by one group to expand their sphere of influence by co-opting the indoctrinatory power of the state. What advertiser would not love to get their product before a captive audience? Even if one chooses to not take such electives, the imprimatur of approval lends credence to the subject matter; that is de facto state approval.
Like it or not Christianity, or any religion, is ideological insofar as it rests on un-provable beliefs. That is not bad per se. Beliefs are by definition un-provable. But it’s still ideology. So the question here should be no different if a group of Synagogues, Mosques, or Buddhist Temples were proposing similar classes. Political ideology also falls under this umbrella. How would we react if the Democrat, Republican, or Communist parties wanted to offer a class supporting their worldviews? Is it fair to give one peddler of ideas a leg up on the competition? If you let one in, you must let all in. This non-exclusionary principal flows from our inability, under pain of imprisonment, to withdraw financial support of state functions. Whosoever removes choice is obligated to treat all equally.