Magazine article Church & State

Colorado School District Denies Charter School to Religious Group

Magazine article Church & State

Colorado School District Denies Charter School to Religious Group

Article excerpt

Officials with the Aurora, Colo., public school system have voted to deny a charter school application filed by a Christian group after intervention from Americans United.

Charter status was sought by the Heritage Christian Center, which had formerly operated as a religious school. Americans United General Counsel Steven K. Green said the proposal was clearly an attempt to win public support for a religious school.

"There is no dispute that Heritage Christian Center previously operated a parochial school which was closed a year ago for the purpose of reopening as a charter school," Green wrote to Aurora Board of Education Chairman Willie Jones on Dec. 3. "Also, there is every reason to expect that this proposed charter school will tailor its program to cater to those students who previously attended the parochial school.... Even assuming the program would be scrupulously secular (something that cannot be guaranteed due to monitoring constraints), the past relationship between the church and parochial school and the fact that the charter school will be affiliated with the same church renders the arrangement suspect."

On Dec. 7 the board, noting the religious nature of the Heritage Christian Center, denied the charter application. The school would have been housed in buildings at the church, a facility festooned with signs reading "Jesus Saves" and "Sinners Welcome Here."

Meanwhile, education officials in South Carolina have closed Charleston County's only charter school, amid allegations that the school, which is deeply in debt, was teaching religion.

Officials shut down Education Redirection in October, charging that its director, Jim Ring, had failed to operate it in a responsible manner. The school, which serves troubled juveniles, is half a million dollars in debt and public education officials feared there could be lawsuits from angry parents and staff members who have not been paid. …

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