Roman Catholics, outraged by the indoctrination of their children through the reading of the King James version of the Holy Bible in public schools of the 19th century, petitioned New York Public Schools for a redress of their grievances — grievances which were supported by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
New York amended its school funding policy and began sending tax monies to support Roman Catholic parochial schools. The resulting justice meted out to a religious sect was to protect American minorities from having the religion of the majority forced upon their children by their own taxes.
Since many parents in America now find the prevailing religion of the American public school system to be the “absence of religion,” many Christians are wisely opting out of public education.
Indeed, in California, a statewide movement called “The Exodus Mandate” has been underway for many years now. And, private Christian education is growing; its revival having been sparked in the late 1950’s and fanned into a steady blaze in the 1980’s. Additionally, the Association of Classical Christian Schools of which Effingham Christian School is a member has grown 280 percent in the last 10 years.
In considering the rise of these mostly Protestant schools (Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, non-denominational, etc.), no wonder so much legislative attention is being given to “school choice” around the country. Georgia is no different –especially since legislation signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue (GA HB 1133) last spring clears the way for Student Scholarship Organizations to form and solicit funds to assist parents in pursuing private education for their children.
“Under the law,” writes Atlanta Business Chronicle staff writer, Dave Williams, “individual contributors to the program will receive a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit of up to $1,000, while married couples filing jointly may claim up to $2,500. Corporate donors will get a dollar-for-dollar credit worth up to 75 percent of their total tax liability.”
Simply, history teaches us that in all schools some religion is guiding the education of children. For much of our nation’s history, Protestant Christianity has been at the core of many community schools; however, it is no longer the case.
There might be a lot of Protestant Christians (non Roman Catholics, non Greek Orthodox) who serve in this system, but the system has switched horses; it now rides the pluralistic, All-gods-are-equal-and-the-God-of-the-Bible-is-not-to-be-discussed horse. Thus, for 35 hours a week children are taught, mostly by the silence of the “system”, that personal application of their religious principles to the ideas in class and the religious convictions which guide their relationships are private at best or at worst unimportant.
This core issue is why many are asking, “If pluralism and atheism can be tax supported, why cannot our tax monies be used to support educational institutions which advance our religion of choice versus that of the state?”
However, the problem is more profound than just having a school where prayer or the Bible or the Ten Commandments or spankings inform some of the cultural elements. Christianity stakes an exclusive claim to truth. Therefore, Christianity should inform all ideas in a Christian school whether they are found in literature, art, law, history, math, economics, science, soccer or wood shop class.
Christianity should inform the student’s conduct, his ethics, his calling, his identity, his relationships and his citizenship. Christianity is never just private or personal or unimportant.
In each of my 15 years of education, I have heard many a Christian adult proclaim the mantra, “If they didn’t remove prayer, the Bible, spankings and the Ten Commandments from public schools, all would be fine.” When thinking of the immense truth claims which Christianity makes, this complaint seems shallow indeed. In order to accomplish an education which revolves around truth for 35 hours a week, many Christian Americans are choosing segregation again – this time for the right reasons.
School Choice (self-imposed segregation) for religious liberty is costly. I’ve seen parents sell houses, downsize, cash investments, spend the inheritance, sell assets, donate land, ask grandparents for help, humbly seek financial aid or give educational monies for scholarships for their neighbor’s child in order to spin an educational wheel with the way, the truth and the life at the hub.
It is only a matter of time before more Christian Americans do the same — demanding the use of their tax dollars to support a more profound and more valuable education — an education with the depth of eternal Truth at its core.
At the time of my writing this article, local families in Effingham County have already begun pursuing the licensing of a coastal Georgia Christian student scholarship organization.
This is good news for every family in Effingham County who desires to have a private Christian education, but cannot afford one. This is good news for every tax payer in Effingham County in giving each a resource to shift his personal tax monies toward the religious education he personally values. This is good for the Effingham County School System as it places a burden of financial accountability regarding their public service.
This law should cause the biggest revolution in pursuit of liberty in Georgia in the last 50 years. In an era ripe with government oversight, a little more liberty is good for us all.
By Effingham Christian School Headmaster