24 August 2011: Does the Constitution or Bible have more power?

Does the Constitution or Bible have more power?

It was great relief to see sanity, rule of law, and our state constitution triumphing, which gives hope for that potential at the national level.

The case dealt with Douglas County School District’s Choice Scholarship School, a fencing operation designed to funnel tax dollars to private and religious-based schools.

It was a ruse from the start, a flagrant abuse of the state’s charter school laws, aided and abetted by the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Board of Education.

Robert Hammond, the Colorado Commissioner of Education, confirmed in court the CDE “did not intend to block the implementation of the Scholarship Program.”

District Court Judge Michael A. Martinez saw through the scheme perpetrated by the DCSD Board of Education upon not only the District’s taxpayers but also the entire state’s taxpayers given our Public School Finance Act. In a 68-page finding, Martinez eviscerated the defendants’ arguments.

The BOE titled the scam the Choice Scholarship School, but as Martinez noted, the “school” was a mirage with “no building, no curriculum, and no books.” He thus found it in violation of the PSF Act by “inappropriately tap[ping] resources from other Colorado school districts.”

In addition to the PSF Act, Martinez ruled the scheme violated numerous sections of the Colorado Constitution including Article II, Section 4; Article IX, Section 7; and Article IX, Section 8.

With its “free exercise” provision, Article II, Section 4 provides for a number of protections, the final one forbidding “any preference given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship.”

Of the 23 schools with buildings to which the school-with-no-building was to send students, 16 were sectarian-religious, and for virtually all high school students, not one was secular. Or Islamic. Or Hindu. Or Wiccan.

Other than Hillel Academy, an orthodox Jewish day school for boys, the other 15 were Christian that are “unashamedly creationist,” where “the values of the Bible are given authority” (Southeast Christian School), and where “students hear about Jesus Christ, their Savior, in personal ways throughout the school day and throughout the curriculum – EVERY DAY” (Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School).

According to the court finding, “The primary missions of most of the Private School Partners, and of the religious entities that own, operate, sponsor, or control them, is to provide students with a religious upbringing and to inculcate in them the particular religious beliefs and values of the school or sponsoring religious organization.”

In its application for inclusion in the PSP, Front Range Christian School, for example, states it is open to “Christian students” who attend church regularly and have at least one parent or guardian who “profess[es] a personal relationship with Christ.” Sending public school students to would violate Article IX, Section 9 that forbids religious tests “as a condition of admission into any public institution of the state, either as a teacher or student,” and requiring public school teachers and students “to attend or participate in any religious service whatsoever.”

Judge Martinez concluded that most of the schools in the PSP “subject students, parents, and faculty to religious tests and qualifications” as well as “require students to attend religious services.”

Fraud might be a legal description of what the District and the participating parents were perpetrating given the District intended to count participating students on their lists despite them being educated by schools over which it had no control.

Article IX, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution reads, “Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatsoever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever; nor shall any grant of land, money, or other personal property, ever be made by the state, or any such public corporation to any church, or for any sectarian purpose,” but that meant little to the Defendants.

Martinez took them to task for expecting “the Court to ignore the language of the Colorado Constitution because the provisions were written and ratified under the guise of ‘Catholic bigotry,’” which ironically was promulgated by religious ancestors of some of the “tsk-tsking” ones with their hands in the taxpayers’ wallet. I wonder if “hypocrisy” is on their vocabulary lists.

For the Southeast Christian School community, the Bible might very well be “the most important book in the world,” but when it comes to how we govern ourselves, it holds the same weight as the Koran, Upanishads, or Bhagavad Gita.

A simple question every office holder or contender, from school board to the President, should be asked: When it comes to governance, which has primacy, the Bible or the Constitution?

And in a public school curriculum: science or religion?

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