South Carolina lawmakers must rescind $1.5 million handout for religious school

South Carolina religious school image

The Freedom From Religion Foundation strongly condemns as unconstitutional and irresponsible a $1.5 million budget earmark in South Carolina to help start up a Christian school.

Christian Learning Centers of Greenville, which has indoctrinated public school students through release-time bible instruction, now want to build a $14 million residential school for 32 at-risk students, with state funds going for startup costs.

As The State newspaper (based in the capital Columbia) asks: “Why is the state giving $1.5 million to an organization that seems less concerned with teaching geography than Sodom and Gomorrah?” 

“Let’s be honest: These lawmakers aren’t sponsoring education with this $1.5 million,” the editorial continues. “They’re sponsoring Christianity. With little state oversight of private schools, there’s no way to ensure the curriculum will teach these kids anything. What do these lawmakers need? For stone tablets to fall from the sky with the words ‘Thou shall not give public funds to private schools.’”

The newspaper’s point is very much grounded in South Carolina law. The state’s Constitution explicitly bars direct aid to religious or other private educational institutions: “No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the state or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” (Article XI, Sections 4–5)

No surprise that the evangelists have sought support from Gov. Henry McMaster. Two years ago, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled against his scheme to use $32 million in federal Covid relief funds to provide tuition grants for students attending private schools. 

“We hold the governor’s decision constitutes the use of public funds for the direct benefit of private educational institutions within the meaning of, and prohibited by, Article XI, Section 4 of the South Carolina Constitution,” ruled the state’s high court.

The current proposal doesn’t even indicate how many administrators, teachers or staff would be employed or include an estimate of annual operating expenses. Bob Jones University, which infamously banned interracial dating until the year 2000, has financial ties to the organization

“This boondoggle is not just an insult to constitutional principles, but a direct injury to South Carolina taxpayers, teachers and its underfunded public schools,” says Dan Barker, FFRF co-president.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 37,000 members nationwide, including hundreds of members in South Carolina. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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