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September 20, 2022

South Carolina Taxpayers Sue Over Funding to a Christian Learning Center

 The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on September 21, 2022 to challenge the unconstitutional funding of a private religious educational institution in the state of South Carolina. State lawmakers earmarked $1.5 million in the budget for 2022 to go to Christian Learning Centers of Greenville County to help get its new facility off the ground. CLC is a private religious educational institution whose mission is to “provide biblical instruction for public school children at no cost.” Its faculty is a “group of Christ-centered educators who have a passion for teaching and sharing God’s Word with our youth,” to quote the organization itself. Students are encouraged to “spread the news” to others to “ELECT JESUS.” For 25 years, the Christian group has provided biblical release-time instruction to students in Greenville County schools.

The lawsuit challenges the appropriations bill for 2022-23 that designates this funding. It argues that it violates the South Carolina Constitution, as well as the rights of all citizens and taxpayers of the state of South Carolina, including plaintiffs and those who are similarly situated

The case was filed on behalf of four South Carolina taxpayers — Christopher Parker and Ian Whatley, both Greenville County residents, and Gere Fulton and Michael Brown, both Richland County residents — against defendants South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, Treasurer Curtis Loftis Jr. and Education Superintendent Molly Spearman. Three of the plaintiffs are members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and Parker, who has children in the Greenville County Schools, is familiar with the intent of Christian Learning Centers to evangelize students.

The plaintiffs are represented by local attorney Steven Buckingham, as well as FFRF attorneys Patrick Elliott and Karen Heineman. This case is in The Court of Common Pleas in Richmond County, SC.