Why Does This Public Charter School Have Students Give Thanks to a ‘Creator’?

If you’re a charter school — and thus eligible for taxpayer money — in North Carolina, there are some rules you have to follow. Like this one:

As with other public schools in North Carolina, public charter schools must be non-religious in their programs, admissions policies, governance, employment practices and all other operations. Like other public schools, however, public charter schools may enter into partnerships with any community group for secular purposes. Public charter schools must sign off yearly that they are not religious-based entities.

Which means Hope Elementary Charter School in North Carolina has some explaining to do about this…:

Students are encouraged to memorize the Creed and recite the creed daily after morning announcements.

I am special because I have been made in the Creator’s image

Umm… how is that “non-religious” in nature?

Glancing around the interwebs, it’s not hard to find the history of the school (PDF). It “was established in 1998 as a private Christian school under the direction of Building Together Ministries. Hope began operating as a charter school in July 2001.”

Maybe they just forgot to update their website to reflect its non-religious nature.

It’s only been a little over a decade. These things take time, right?

I’ve contacted the principal to get her response to all this. I would like to hear that there really is no religion in the school and that the sentence will be scrubbed immediately. But if it doesn’t change, FFRF will be notified.

(Thanks to Richard for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • lefty

    so many people will blow this type of thing off as trivial without pausing to consider the other foot…this is one of many reasons i am not having children. our world, culture, and our very language is geared toward theism. knowledge of the bible is necessary to be “culturally literate.” i am exhausted.

  • The Other Weirdo

     That’s a bad reason not to have children. Also, “knowledge of the bible” doesn’t imply “believing the nonsense contained therein”.

  • http://cranialhyperossification.blogspot.com GDad

    Please keep us apprised of the situation.  I would expect some dissembling, community outrage, then some activity involving lawyers.

  • Sven2547

    I’m going to add some nuance to this, just to make things interesting.
    First, I do agree with your objection Hope Charter Elementary for two main reasons:
    1: The phrasing of “the Creator”, as opposed to, say, “my creator” (more on that in a moment).
    2: The phrasing of being made in a creator’s image, which is a brazen reference to Genesis, which is an endorsement of a specific religious text.

    Back to the phrasing of “the Creator”.  Let’s look at the Declaration of Independence:
    “…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”
    Note the wording here.  It does not say “the Creator” or “our Creator”, it says “their Creator”.  By phrasing it that way, the founders left open the possibility of people having different “creators” (I, for one, was created by my parents).  To each their own “creator”.  The use of “their” in the Declaration of Independence enshrines the notion of religious freedom and plurality.

    Let’s say, hypothetically, that the first line in this creed was reworded to something like:
    “I’m special because my Creator endowed me with human rights”, or “I’m special because my Creator gave me life and liberty”.
    I would approve, despite the usage and capitalization of “Creator”, on the grounds that each person’s “Creator” is personal, and the wording does not endorse any particular religious text.  Thoughts?

  • Glasofruix

    I don’t get the “kids reciting some useless bullshit every morning in school” fetish you people have in the US. Kids don’t give a crap about the contents of the message and it certainly would not make them into a better person, but into a mindless robot…

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The Declaration of Independence is not the Constitution, which is what is being violated here.

    Your hypothetical alternatives sound like the equivocations of someone who just really, really wants to keep the word “Creator” in there somehow. It’s still a attempt to smuggle a deity into the mix. Nobody calls their parents “my creators.”  In the original and in your alternatives, the word is singular, not plural, and it is also capitalized, reflecting the Christian habit of capitalizing any noun or pronoun that refers to their god.

    The entire line is unnecessary, and it does not fit in at all with the rest of the statements, which are all about self-esteem, positivism,  and taking personal responsibility for one’s conduct. It is unnecessary to invoke an outside entity to support those ideas.

  • Sven2547

    You’re quite correct that my suggestions are hypotheticals in which “creator” is kept in there.  I agree that having the “Creator” line in there at all is out-of-place and stupid.  I was really just conducting a thought experiment on what a non-infringing usage of “Creator” might look like.

    I am well aware of the differences between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and what their respective roles are.  Do not mistake my citing of the Declaration of Independence as an attempt to justify Hope Charter Elementary’s creed here.  Quite the contrary: I was using the wording of the Declaration to show how H.C.E. is doing it WRONG.

    Personally I find the singular usage of “Creator”, and its capitalization to be awkward and silly, but otherwise trivial.  To each his own I suppose.

  • Dale MacDougall

    My kids were young when we moved to the US from Canada. They joined a youth swim league and before every meet there was the pledge. I once asked an American friend if more than four of them got together for anything did they have to say the pledge. He laughed and said it seems like that.
    I only had to tell two teachers that my non-American citizen kids would not be reciting the pledge in their class.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Sven, I understand where you’re coming from, and I am sorry if I sounded harsh or accusatory in my tone. 

  • Sven2547

    No worries :)

  • Gary B

    One key point here is that most kids in elementary school don’t think of their parents as their creators.  They know they came out of Mom, but that’s pretty much the extent of it.  They’re still scratching their heads about how Dad fits into the picture.  Conversely, I think many kids would equate Creator with God.  I’m with Richard…bad idea all around.

  • Sven2547

    Very good point.

  • 3lemenope

    Given how personal a choice having kids is, I’m hesitant to call any colorable reason either way “bad”. And while you’re quite right that knowing the Bible doesn’t mean agreeing with it, I think the lament is more in the necessity of having to know it at all.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    Usually it means the latter rather than the former though. Also, usually the former suggests the latter to be false.

  • pagansister

     Interesting reason not to have children,lefty.     I am glad that in this world there is a choice whether to procreate or not.  There are some religions where it is considered a requirement!

  • pagansister

    It is obvious that “the Creator” hasn’t told them to eliminate that statement!   What did someone say?  It’s only been 10 years!    Since the school has been granted Charter school status, that line should be eliminated all together—-but I guess “the Creator” moves in his/her own time!!!    

  • Aureliano_Buendia

    Judging by the school icon, the students are all bird-people. I for one welcome our  feathery overlords!

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I’m an American, and I don’t understand it, either.

  • Earl G.

    The world is severely overpopulated.  There is no “bad” reason to not have children, just as there is no “bad” reason to quit smoking.

  • Bill Haines

    Yes, and even Jefferson’s wording doesn’t leave open any other reasonable interpretation, since ‘C’reator is  both capitalized and singular.  

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    Sven2547 is generous with his forgiveness, which should be lauded. Also Richard I think most readers here would understand your tone. I’d argue that atheists and critical thinkers are in large part tired from all of the utter bullshit flung our way by theists, so it’s natural to allow one’s hackles to pop up at the slightest hint of “America is Jesusland!”

  • Bill Haines

    Good thing your own parents obviously didn’t feel that way… your intelligence and charm would be sorely missed around the family holiday dinner table, I’m sure…

  • Bill Haines

    Some people claim, and some actually think, that ‘religious’ means ‘sectarian.’  They just assume everyone believes in a ‘Creator’ (even us atheists, secretly) and it’s not ‘religious’ to refer to that ‘Creator’ as long as they don’t actually name or describe it.  

  • Bill Haines

    And what if they were reciting,

    “I pledge to think for myself, as clearly and reasonably as I can, based on the most truthful information I can find, with consideration of others’ feelings and welfare in mind.”

    ? ;-)

  • Glasofruix

     Still stupid, it has no effect on kids other than boring them to automatically recite that to get over with the daily chore.

  • 3lemenope

    Malthus was wrong. Even moderately pessimistic projections for world population have us reaching max world pop at around 2100 with just over 11 billion, and that assumes that worldwide trends in birthrate decline are somehow steeper in the short term than they are likely to be in the long term, which is not an assumption that is backed up by any evidence. Since max sustainable pop is generally pegged at around 12 billion, we’ll probably be fine.

  • Richard

    So Hemant – I am guessing you haven’t heard back from the principal!

    (Not Wade).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    Not yet!

  • Richard (Not Wade)

    OK – I imagine that there are calls to the board taking place etc.   As a Raleigh resident, I’m not going to let them get away with this!

  • Sven2547

    For the record: I’m an atheist.  My statements may have given the wrong impression ;)

  • http://askanatheist.tv/ Becky Friedman

    I won’t be surprised if the Charter School initiative finally passed this round of elections in WA State.  Although I’m less afraid for it in WA than in other states with less strict legislation on the issue, I’m still afraid of the religious org being granted charters. Even if religious affiliation or endorsement of religion isn’t allowed, it’ll take a law suit or threat thereof to get it to stop if it does start, and from whom does that take even more $?  Public districts.   :/

  • http://www.facebook.com/khem.irby Khem Irby

    Its so amazing how when we see the word “creator” we think God.  Acknowledging that there is a God doesn’t mean religious.  Religion is  much deeper than this.  If the parents choose the school which is their choice then its not a problem.  Their not forcing a religion.  The creator has no name to any particuar religion such as agnostics acknowledge a higher being but feel there is no evidence of it.  Are the children learning at this school?  Are they succeessful?  Some feel that way about the Pledge of Allegiance I guess.  Which clearly states “One nation under God”  so please let’s not have a double standard and attack something so trivial as this Creeed.  And of course, those students that can’t recite the pledge of allegiance such as “jehovah’s witnessees” don’t because of their faith.  As long as its not forced  and made mandatory then its fine. 

  • Earl G.

    “so amazing how when we see the word ‘creator’ we think God”
    There’s nothing amazing about associating a religious word with religious belief.  Capitalizing “Creator” makes blatantly clear that this is a religious reference.
    “Acknowledging that there is a God”
    A person can only “acknowledge” something that is actually true and supported by data and reality.  Technically, no one can “acknowledge” that there is a god.  They merely assert that this is the case, based on indoctrination or mindless gut feelings.

    “Their not forcing a religion”
    They’re (contraction of “they are”) indeed giving privilege to one religion over others.  This is discriminatory and illegal.

    “agnostics acknowledge a higher being but feel there is no evidence of it”
    That statement invalidates itself.  You can’t acknowledge something for which you see no evidence.  

    “let’s not have a double standard”
    “under God” in the Pledge is just as discriminatory as “Creator” in the school’s creed.  I doubt anyone here will claim otherwise.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses (who don’t need scare quotes) are being discriminated against by the Pledge just as much as nontheists, polytheists, pantheists, etc.  By having the Pledge be official, even if not forced, it marginalizes students of non-monotheist religions.