God-Centered Preschools Should Not be Taxpayers’ Burden

No taxpayer should be required to pay for another’s religious education. But that is exactly what is happening in many schools across the country—specifically in Arkansas, where several preschools that offer religious training rely on tax dollars to operate. 

Growing God's Kingdom in West Fork and Noah's Ark Preschool in Mountain Home are two such schools. The names alone should be a tip off to the curriculums, but here are some facts: In God’s Kingdom, Bible quotes are posted on the school bulletin boards and students and teachers are encouraged to proselytize to others. At Noah’s Ark children participate in daily prayers, and both schools offer Bible lessons daily.

Not only do these schools function with tax payer dollars, but in an even stranger twist, both are run by politicians—public servants who have sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which in its First Amendment guarantees a separation of church and state. Growing God's Kingdom is run by Republican state Representative Justin Harris, while Noah’s Ark is run by Republican state Senator Johnny Key.

According to an article published last week in the Arkansas Times, God’s Kingdom receives more than $500,000 a year of state funds towards tuition for the school’s 110 students and receives nearly $900,000 a year in federal funds, including nutrition aid. Noah’s Ark receives $200,000 in public money a year.

The article continues, “Nearly 300 agencies — many of them with religious roots — receive $100 million a year in public Arkansas Better Chance funding to provide preschool for poor children.”

While Arkansas law requires that religious preschools be audited to ensure they are not unconstitutionally funded, no audits have ever been performed. Worse, Harris said he received an OK to offer religion instruction as long as it takes place outside of the mandated 7.5 hours of care required for each taxpayer funded child – a seemingly impossible task for a school with “God” in its very title. Not to mention that the very infrastructure of the institution is taxpayer funded – a fact that doesn’t cease to exist after 5 pm.

Arkansas isn’t the only state where taxpayers are forced to fund religious education. Both the federal voucher program that affects students in the District of Columbia, as well as other voucher programs throughout the states use taxpayer dollars to pay for student tuition at religious schools. Additionally, in 14 states religiously-affiliated child care centers are not required to meet many of the same health, safety and caregiver-training standards that secular schools must, yet still receive taxpayer funding to operate.

In a society that regards religious liberty as a core principle – one that is backed up by the very founding documents of the country—it’s unacceptable that any citizen would be forced to pay for religious training of another, especially when that training runs counter to that individual’s personal religious beliefs.

Not only do these schools favor religion over non-religion, but they favor Christianity over other faiths and in the process ostracize those in the minority. After all, how would the people of Arkansas – a majority Christian state—feel about their tax dollars going to a school that provided Muslim religious training?

The bottom line is, there is no way to ensure that Christian tax dollars go to Christian schools, Muslim tax dollars go to Muslim schools and atheist tax dollars aren’t used toward either. And even if there were, the idea would still run counter to spirit of the Constitution which states explicitly, that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion – that means one religion over another, as well as religion over non-religion.

American principles were designed specifically to prohibit individual taxpayers from financially supporting other taxpayer’s religious training.  To uphold those very principles our country was founded upon, it is essential that programs like are put to an end.

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