Sunday, November 13, 2011

Religious Entanglement in Preschool



A preschool in Little Rock, Arkansas is under investigation for inappropriate handling of state tax dollars as evident in the endorsement of Christianity interwoven with the school curriculum. The preschool, Growing God’s Kingdom, is not a state institution and is owned by a Representative Justin Harris, a state legislator. However, this preschool has received over 1 million dollars since 2006 from the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) program. The ABC program is funded by both federal and state task dollars and distributes money across all preschools in Arkansas. Growing God’s Kingdom is heavily religious based (as evident in the name of the program) and Christianity is included in the curriculum. This is evident in the preschool staff’s handbook, which instructs employees to “share the love of Jesus with these children” and “teach them the word of God.”


There is a clear issue in this scenario regarding the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. While this preschool is open to the public, as it is even mentioned that children from Atheist households are participants, the program clearly revolves around Christian principles. A program that endorses religion to this extent and receives government funding is problematic, as Rob Boston, an ABC spokesman, argues that Growing God’s Kingdom should not be allowed to “inject” religion into a government funded program. However, he proceeds to conclude that to do this would be impossible, as the preschool program is completely religious based, indicated blatantly by its title. This situation exemplifies the common issue of government funding, education, and religious entanglement. In the past, Supreme Court cases have granted government funding that extended to all children, including those enrolled in private religious schools. In Mitchell v. Helms, the government enabled loans to be given to religious schools to provide textbooks to students. The present issue is similar in that ABC provides aid to preschools which is in the children’s best interest, however the educational context is very different and religious endorsement is very clear.


I believe ABC inappropriately provides financial support to Growing God’s Kingdom. As a Christian, I see no issue in the curriculum of this preschool program. However, I simply believe they should not be receiving government funding. It is unfair to use state and federal tax dollars, which are not to be incorporated with religion, to benefit this school. One who is not Christian should not have to support a Christian program as mandated by the federal government. As Boston suggested, ABC should not continue administering funds to this preschool unless religion is completely removed from the curriculum. Yes, non-Christians are able to enroll in this preschool, but that does not warrant the program to revolve around religious principles when government money is being spent. If someone disagrees with the curriculum at this school, they do not have to send their child there, but they also should not have to indirectly fund the program. I am in no way in disagreement with the religious curriculum in Growing God’s Kingdom, however I believe they should not be funded by tax-payers’ money.

5 comments:

Grant Z said...

I completely agree. I think this is a clear violation of the establishment clause. While the school is open to the public, consider that most church services are open to the public as well. Just because anyone can have access to the school doesn't mean the curriculum is appropriate for the government to sponsor the school.

Harry R. said...

I agree with Bryce that the preschool should not receive federal financial support. This money is going to this particular preschool, a private religious school which receives money intended for secular schools only. Federal aid given directly to this religious school through tax dollars indirectly forces religious support upon all taxpayers. While the preschool administrators can teach in whatever manner they want, they should not have access to public funding due to the school's religious nature.

Jack Ness said...

I think that Bryce is right on the money on this issue. It is inappropriate for state and federal funds to be going towards a school of such religious nature. The picture on the post shows, even better than words can, the blatant religious nature of this school. Giving the money that taxpayers who may not be religious, or may not practice christianity to a school who forces such a religous curriculum is advancing religion, and is establishment.

Christy said...

Yes, I agree with Bryce. This preschool is no different than most religious middle or high schools. There are plenty of religious schools that allow people of all religions to attend, and they do not receive government funding. This preschool, even though open to the public, should not be given financial support from the government.

Callie B said...

I agree with all of the above comments. The reason the reimbursements in Everson v Board of Education were deemed constitutional is because they helped the individual not the institution. In these circumstance, the funding went directly to the school thus it is a violation of the establishment clause.