By Jessie L. Bonner Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho — A defunct Idaho charter school exhausted its appeals Monday in a legal battle with state officials who barred the use of the Bible and other religious texts as a historical teaching tool in the classroom.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Nampa Classical Academy’s federal lawsuit. The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based group representing the school’s founders, expressed disappointed with the decision.
“When government officials ban the objective study of all religiously-themed texts — like the Bible, the Iliad, and the Odyssey — it does nothing but dumb-down public education,” said senior counsel David Cortman.
He called the decision “regrettable” particularly given the high court’s previous ruling on the issue.
The Supreme Court banned ceremonial school Bible readings in a 1963 ruling but said “the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities” so long as material is “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.”
That opinion found the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, Cortman said.
“We trust the court will reaffirm that conclusion in the future,” Cortman said.
Public schools nationwide have traditionally avoided Bible courses — and the potential controversy surrounding them — but hundreds do offer voluntary classes.
In Idaho, the founders of Nampa Classical Academy tangled with state officials over the use of the Bible and other religious texts shortly after opening in August 2009 with more than 500 students.
The academy filed a federal lawsuit against Idaho officials in 2009. That was after the Idaho Public Charter School Commission adopted a state deputy attorney general opinion that found the state constitution “expressly” limits use of religious texts.
The academy has argued that the practice goes unchecked elsewhere in Idaho.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge dismissed the lawsuit in May 2010, determining the state’s ban on religious texts didn’t violate the school’s rights. The charter school commission closed the academy a month later citing troubled finances, thought officials pressed on with their lawsuit.
The academy challenged Lodge’s ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three judge panel upheld the lower court decision. The Alliance Defense Fund petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case in December.
The high court did not give a reason when declining to hear the case.