Are charter schools allowed to teach religion? That’s the question on many people’s minds. One answer comes from a law professor at Notre Dame. Charter schools are essentially nonprofits run by private, unelected boards. As a result, they’re able to teach religion without violating the Establishment Clause. Furthermore, state laws prohibiting religion in charter schools are unconstitutional, because they violate the Free Exercise Clause.
In addition to the controversies about religion in public schools, there are also legitimate concerns about the practice of religion in our educational system. Many religions have a very negative impact on society and its values. Moreover, some of these groups are hostile to fellow citizens and civil society. That’s why any bonding capital from these groups is questionable. However, John Dewey famously observed that belonging to a gang may lead to a sense of community and growth. However, that gang can lead to destructive ends. Whether we should keep the baby or throw it out is a question of balance.
As a result, states that require religious charter schools to be secular would likely challenge this requirement. These states will argue that the law is not discriminatory on the basis of religion and that it does not prevent government funds from being diverted to religious organizations. However, this argument would be overly complicated given the Espinoza decision, which affirmed the principle of religious freedom. So, the next time you hear about a religious charter school, ask yourself: Are charter schools allowed to teach religion?