by Max Brantley
The state spends $100 million a year to subsidize preschool programs in some 300 places around the state, but despite the specific requirements of a state law, has never done the required auditing that the money not support religious instruction. A Department of Human Services spokesman confirmed this to me yesterday and John Lyon of Stephens Media reports on that today, too.
The issue is being reviewed because of a complaint by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, originally about Republican Rep. Justin Harris' Growing God's Kingdom preschool, but now also expanded to cover Republican Sen. Johnny Key's Noah's Ark Preschool. Both schools include Bible classes as part of the state-subsidized school day. They argue that they had clearance from the state for these religious practices, though no document for that clearance exists. I suspect they are telling the truth, however. My sense is that the state REALLY hates to enforce this rule (else it wouldn't have ignored it for 10 years). I think it's a lead-pipe cinch that other recipients of the money, not just Republican legislators, are teaching Bible with public money, too.
It's just wrong if you value the Constitution. (Republican shills are already turning this into an attack on God, as you might expect.)
Interesting notes from the Stephens Media story on an inspection trip Friday to Harris' school:
Chapman’s report on Harris’ school noted that several “scriptural pictures and decorations” hang on the wall in the foyer; several bulletin boards in the hallway leading to the classrooms are decorated in a religious theme; posters displaying a “Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian Flag” and “Pledge to the Bible” are on the walls of one classroom; and daily schedules posted in the classrooms include Bible study and Bible song sessions.
Also, children coming in from a play yard were singing “Jesus Loves Me.”