Calif. City To Help Religious School With Debt Woes

A Christian school system in Stockton, Calif., will get the city's help in refinancing its $5-million debt.

In early December, the Stockton City Council voted 4-3 to issue tax-exempt debt notes on behalf of United Christian Schools, which runs a Christian high school, junior high, elementary and two preschools. In 1997, the school system withdrew a similar plea for help after several city and state officials questioned the constitutionality of such an action.

This time, the religious school group had the backing of the Stockton mayor and three city council members. Councilman Larry Ruhstaller told The Record that he saw no problem with the city lending help to the religious schools. He also said he didn't "care what they teach, as long as they teach."

According to The Record, United Christian's financial adviser Josh Cooperman said the school system is secular, "albeit from a Christian perspective."

Some local religious and civil liberties groups protested the city's action. The Stockton Metropolitan Ministry and the American Civil Liberties Union said the city's backing looked constitutionally suspect.