Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Indiana Church/State Case Worth Watching

Huntington, Indiana school officials in a northeastern Indiana district deny that a religious education program offered during the school day illegally advances religion, as a federal lawsuit claims. A complaint filed by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of an unnamed woman and her eight-year-old son asks a federal judge to shut down the program and bar the school district from providing it with utilities or any other support. The boy, identified only as "J. S.," attends Horace Mann Elementary School, which offers third-and fourth-grade students a "release time" program for "By the Book Weekday Religious Instruction" through the Associated Churches of Huntington. The Huntington County Community School Corp. argued in a response to the lawsuit that the release time program neither advances nor inhibits religion. Similar programs at elementary schools have been protected by a 1952 U. S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed students to receive religious education during school hours but not on school property.

This will be an interesting case to watch for its possible impact on LDS seminary programs in states such as Utah, Arizona, and Idaho where students are released from school to study the gospel. Likewise to the program ran in Indiana the LDS seminary programs are ran by private funding on private property. We'll keep you up to date as this case moves forward.