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Supreme Court Will Not Review Idaho Ban on Religious Books in Public Schools

Supreme Court Will Not Review Idaho Ban on Religious Books in Public Schools

The U.S. Supreme Court will not review Idaho's ban on books and documents in public schools deemed to be religious, it was announced Monday.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, asked the Supreme Court late last year to review a case in Idaho in which judges ruled that a publicly-funded charter school was violating the state constitution for using the Bible as a textbook in a secular history class.

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission issued a ban in 2009 on all religious texts after Nampa Classical Academy attempted to instruct students with the Bible. The ban was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit earlier in 2011, which said in its decision that because NCA is a publicly-funded school, it is "subject to the supervision and control of the state, and exists at the state's mercy," and therefore can be restricted in which textbooks it uses in the classroom.

ADF released a statement Monday morning denouncing the higher court's decision in the case, Nampa Classical Academy v. Goesling. Lawyers for the group argued that there should be consideration in regards to the texts and documents when they are "classical books from Western Civilization taught with regard to their literary and historical importance."

"Every student deserves a quality education. Banning classical religious texts denies students the right to learn what they need to know about world history and the world in general," stated Senior Counsel David Cortman. "For that reason, the decision of the Supreme Court not to review this case is regrettable, especially in light of the high court's existing precedent stating that even 'the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.'

"We trust the court will reaffirm that conclusion in the future. In the meantime, it's no surprise that the call for school choice has become so popular: When government officials ban the objective study of all religiously-themed texts--like the Bible, the Iliad, and the Odyssey – it does nothing but dumb-down public education."

NCA chairman Mike Moffett had argued that restricting which textbooks he can use in a classroom was a violation of his academic freedom rights as a teacher, The Christian Post previously reported. However, in a ruling made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in 2011, the judges argued that the state has the right to limit which texts are used in its schools "because Idaho charter schools are governmental entities [and] the curriculum presented in such a school is not the speech of teachers, parents, or students, but that of the Idaho government."

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled in Abington Township School District v. Schempp that prayer and Bible devotion in a public school was unconstitutional, but that the Bible could be used as a historical and literary text.

"The Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities" as long as it is "presented objectively as part of a secular program of education," the court decided.

While some reports in recent years claimed that the use of the Bible as a literary and historical text was on the rise at public schools, NCA had been accused of crossing over the line when it comes to the so-called "separation of church and state law" or Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.

"It's ridiculous that a historical religious text that has been studied as part of Western Civilization for centuries is somehow automatically off limits," Cortman said last year.


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