Classically Unconstitutional: Nampa Charter School Can't Be Based On The Bible

There is always something going on Nampa, Idaho, isn't there?

Last year, the Nampa public library removed two sex education books from its shelves after receiving complaints from religious activists. And the city's "Treasure Valley God and Country Festival" mixed Bible readings with hourly flyovers by Air Force B-2 bombers for years until the Pentagon finally put a stop to that in July.

Now, the city will host a charter school that plans to borrow much of its curriculum from a private Christian prep school in Michigan. Fortunately, on Friday, the Nampa Public Charter Commission told the school it could not use the Bible as part of its curriculum.

The school had planned to teach the Bible "for its literary and historic qualities" and also wanted to give students the opportunity to "explore several versions of creationism."

The Alliance Defense Fund had sent a memo in support of the charter school, informing the commission that the U.S. Supreme Court has held the Bible can be studied objectively in public schools.

It's true that the Supreme Court has said instruction about the Bible may occur in public schools so long as it is academic in nature, neutral and objective, but scripture cannot be used to proselytize and push a narrow religious viewpoint. And Idaho's Constitution contains even greater protection for church-state separation by flatly banning sectarian books from public schools.

Though the commission has seemingly resolved the issue over Nampa Classical Academy's use of the Bible, there still are plenty of other reasons to be concerned with this charter school.

The school's founder, Isaac Moffett, said he does not agree with the major educational philosophies of today. According to an article in The Boise Weekly, "Moffett bemoaned the works of secular progressives" that were offered at teacher colleges.

He then founded Nampa Classical, which will use curriculum that does not include "certain sex ed" and does not harshly judge Christopher Columbus "for introducing disease to the New World." In addition, "kids will learn about Native Americans," Moffett told the newspaper, but only because "you can't understand why they were conquered so easily without understanding their culture."

Moffett has based his curriculum not just on the Christian prep school in Michigan, but also on the book, Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America, which was published by a conservative think tank and written by authors who once worked at Boise's Foundations Academy Christian School. The authors' 20-plus books all discuss how to engage society with Christianity.

Though Moffett claims the school will modify the curriculum so it is not religious, there is little way to keep a check on that.

Charter schools, though run entirely with public funding, are held to fewer accountability standards, so it would be difficult to monitor. And if the school does plan to teach creationism, it would be a clear violation of the Constitution.

The charter school intends to follow the commission's directive, yet the school board's chairman said he didn't know if they will seek further assistance from the ADF.

We hope that Nampa Classical Academy stays within constitutional confines, and that if it doesn't, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission sees it for what it really is: a Christian school being paid for on the taxpayers' dime.