Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Government quits trying to run Bible schools

March 23, 2010

Government shouldn’t try to tell private Christian educators how to teach Christianity.

                In a decidedly unconstitutional turn of events in April of 2009, the state of Wyoming threatened to shut down a small but well-established Bible school because the school’s Bible classes weren’t state approved.  That the First Amendment prohibits government attempts to control religious education wasn’t enough to stop the state’s actions—at least not initially.  

                The school, Frontier School of the Bible, is a purely religious non-profit technical school that was founded over 40 years ago in LaGrange, Wyoming.  The school’s curriculum is solely aimed at preparing its students for Christian ministry, and the few non-Bible classes taught at the school—like English—are provided only because they aid effective teaching and interpretation of the Bible.  The school has over 1,600 alumni, most serving as missionaries, pastors, and youth ministers throughout the world.  Frontier exists for one purpose: preparing Christian leaders to teach others about God.

                But the state of Wyoming believed that the quality of Frontier’s Christian education might not be good enough for government work, so its education department sent the school a letter last April demanding that it either become approved by the state or close its doors.  And approval by the state didn’t present an attractive choice.  One way to become state-approved would have accreditation.  But for a school that didn’t pay salaries to its faculty or staff (instead, they all have to obtain voluntary financial support, much like missionaries do) in order to keep costs low so ministry-oriented students weren’t crushed by debt at graduation, the sky-high costs of accreditation wasn’t feasible.  Plus, other similar non-accredited Bible schools that have sought accreditation report that it often requires jettisoning the purely Bible-based teaching that was the sole reason for Frontier’s existence.

                The school’s second route to state approval was even worse: getting a state license.  But this would require ceasing to discriminate based on religion both in admitting students to the school and in hiring teachers for its Bible classes.  Nothing could be more destructive to school’s Christian identity and purpose than having its Christian curriculum taught by non-Christians to non-Christians.

                Thankfully, after being challenged on the many constitutional infirmities of demand to the school, the state made the right decisions to protect religious liberty, granting Frontier an interim exemption from the state’s regulations while legislators crafted a fix to the statute.  That fix was signed into law just this month.

                But what if Wyoming hadn’t made the right decision?  It would have set the State up as in authority over the Church to determine the content of theological instruction.  And “setting standards for a religious education is a religious exercise for which the State lacks not only authority but also competence.”  HEB Ministries v. Texas Higher Educ. Coordinating Board, 235 S.W.3d 627, 643 (Tex. 2007).  That is, having a bureaucrat determine the content of a quality Christian curriculum is like having your single neighbor tell you how to raise your children: not only does he not have any right to tell you what to do, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. 

Christian education is too important to be left in the hands of government.

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Is it Biblical for Christians to go to Court?

March 22, 2010

At ADF, our clients – especially pastors and churches – often question whether it is biblical for Christians to sue the government to protect their constitutional rights. This question stems from passages like Romans 13:1-7, which commands us to “submit [our]selves to the governing authorities,” because those authorities are established by God. Would a lawsuit against the government violate this command?

Perhaps the best way of answering this is to consider who the “government authorities” are. Our system of government features a series of authorities at different levels (e.g. local, state, and federal) and of different types (e.g. executive, legislative, and judicial). Yet one authority in our system stands above all others: the United States Constitution. By using the judicial system to insist that government officials follow the Constitution, a church is not resisting authority. It is simply using the established system of government to appeal to a higher authority.

Apostle Paul, the author of Romans, frequently appealed to higher authorities to protect his rights. For example, he invoked his Roman citizenship and Roman law to force magistrates to personally release him from a Philippi prison after he had been beaten illegally (Acts 16:16-40).  He later invoked his Roman citizenship in Jerusalem to prevent a centurion from flogging him (Acts 22:22-29). Then he defended himself against charges in a Roman court and ultimately appealed to Caesar (Acts 24:10-25:12). Clearly, Paul had no trouble appealing to higher authorities when government officials overstepped their bounds or did not do justice.

So invoking a higher authority is not the same as resisting authority. A lawsuit is neither revolution nor rebellion. It is simply a way to insist that government officials obey a higher legal authority. And by doing so, it helps uphold the rule of law, preserves our Constitution, and ensures that we all can continue to enjoy our first liberty – religious freedom.

If you’re interested in exploring these issues in more depth, ADF attorney Travis Barham has written an excellent essay that I recommend to any Christians who are faced with the possibility of going to court to protect their constitutional rights.