The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling attention to a publicly funded Texas charter school chain’s multiple violations of the U.S. Constitution.
FFRF is requesting that the Texas Education Agency investigate Advantage Academy and take action to prevent its schools from endorsing Christianity to its students. If Advantage Academy is unwilling to operate as a public school in a manner consistent with the Constitution, FFRF asks that all of its current charters be revoked.
"The Texas Education Agency has an obligation to make certain that publicly funded schools and government subsidized teachers 'do not inculcate religion,' to quote the U.S. Supreme Court," FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover writes in a seven-page letter to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath. "The Supreme Court has recognized that 'families entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.'"
Beck also admits that Advantage Academy is teaching the bible to students, encouraging students to pray, and spreading misinformation about the foundations of American history based on the writings of widely discredited pseudo-historian David Barton. Additionally, Beck is adamant that Advantage Academy is "God's school" and that he acquired the school by "attacking the educational system."
The main point of his sermon, Beck sums up, is that everyone, no matter their position within the public school system, needs to be incorporating religion into their work and evangelizing.
Beck's sermon serves to substantiate what was already apparent in Advantage Academy's advertisements to parents: Advantage Academy is a Christian school receiving state funding as a public charter school in violation of the Establishment Clause. When Advantage Academy advertises its schools, it uses language and imagery to suggest that its students will receive a religious education.
And the school's actions speak louder than its advertisements or Allen Beck's words. Advantage Academy regularly promotes religious, and specifically Christian, events to students. For example, the school endorses the National Day of Prayer and displays it on the school calendar, endorses a religious baccalaureate service that takes place on the school's campus, and observes the exclusively Christian holiday Good Friday as a school holiday. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the state, and by extension any state-funded public or charter schools, from endorsing religion. All of these actions violate the Constitution.
Ironically, for Constitution Day in 2015, Advantage Academy invited Tim Barton—son of David Barton and representative of WallBuilders, an evangelical Christian group—to speak to its students. This event was also troubling because much of the "history" promoted by WallBuilders is fabricated, inaccurate or intentionally misleading.
In addition, Advantage Academy lists several faith-based organizations on its webpage. Among them is Heart & Home Ministries, a religious nonprofit organization that began a mentoring program called "Partnering Pals" in the spring of 2010. Teachers refer students to the "Partnering Pals" program so that those students can meet with a religious mentor at the school on a weekly or biweekly basis during lunch or another time scheduled with the campus secretary. The alliance between Advantage Academy and Heart & Home Ministries unconstitutionally entangles a public charter school with a religious ministry.
While it may be possible for an evangelical Christian to create and run a charter school that follows the law and remains religiously neutral, Allen Beck has neither achieved this result nor endeavored to do so. From the very beginning Advantage Academy was designed, advertised and operated as a Christian school. This, FFRF asserts, is impermissible.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 24,000 nonreligious members nationwide, including almost 1,000 in Texas.