How taxpayers pay for religious education
At Colonial Christian, an Indianapolis school on the northeast side that receives public funds through Indiana’s private school voucher program, students are warned they can be kicked out of school for “promoting a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.”
At even more voucher-accepting schools, families are required to sign statements of faith as a condition of enrollment, affirming that they hold the same religious beliefs and values as the school.
Theology classes are required for four years at Bishop Chatard High School, as are hours performing service and outreach. And some schools, including Bethesda Christian in Brownsburg, require a recommendation by a pastor.
Those admissions standards reflect arguably the most controversial aspect of Indiana’s voucher program, also known as school choice scholarships. The GOP-driven program allows religious schools to receive public funds. At the same time, those private schools can reject students who don't affirm certain religious precepts — and impose religious requirements on those who are accepted.
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Opponents of the program say it amounts to the state allowing private schools to discriminate. But advocates point to an Indiana Supreme Court ruling that determined the state's voucher program to be constitutional. They say vouchers give low- to middle-income families access to their tax dollars to place their child in the best situation for them — and that may involve a faith-based education.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld Ohio's voucher program. Vouchers are "neutral" on religion, the 2002 ruling said, because families have a choice in what type of school their children attend, without any greater incentive to go to religious schools.
At Colonial Christian, which last year received $340,000 in state dollars, the school is “very clear about who we are up front with every family,” said Kevin Suiter, the school’s administrator.
The school’s website reflects that transparency, where along with the same-sex ban, it states families must "faithfully attend" the school’s parent church, Colonial Hills How taxpayers pay for religious education: