Court Reinstates Funds to Train Teachers for Religious Schools

Article excerpt

Byline: George Archibald, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

An appeals court panel yesterday upheld federal funding for a teacher-training program at the University of Notre Dame that places educators in needy Catholic schools.

Taxpayer support of religious schools is constitutional so long as government funds go to "programs of true private choice," wrote Judge A. Raymond Randolph for the three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The decision reversed a 2004 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler that the Corporation for National and Community Service, parent of the AmeriCorps program, had violated the Constitution's ban on establishment of religion by awarding tuition vouchers to teachers in Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

The American Jewish Congress (AJC) challenged the program because AmeriCorps awarded $4,725 vouchers for education-related expenses of Notre Dame teachers assigned only to Catholic schools.

The AJC also objected to teachers fulfilling their service requirement by teaching religion courses in addition to secular subjects in the parochial schools.

"We believe the Supreme Court's more recent decisions upholding programs of true private choice, particularly Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), control this case," the court said.

The 5-4 Zelman ruling upheld a Cleveland school-voucher program against a First Amendment challenge on grounds that parents had a right to use tax-supported vouchers to pay tuition at religious schools as long as they also had the option of nonsectarian schools. …