The problem with private religious schools — such as California’s River View Christian Academy (RVCA) — is that they teach children fantasies as reality.
But the disconnect is that true-believing religious-school promoters think they are teaching reality, so any pushback from secular authorities feels to them like religious discrimination. The school sued the state in March for allegedly violating its First Amendment rights. (The video above shows the Christian Right’s defensive take on the River View issue.)
However, the state is investigating the school for violations of human, not religious, rights.
One of the things taught by this school, which is run by the nonprofit Teen Rescue and facing closure by the state for legal infractions and abuses, is that homosexuality and gender choice is unbiblical and thus bad.
An unlicensed school
State investigators have been eying the school for a decade, saying it operates unlawfully as an “unlicensed community care facility,” and raided the school earlier this year. During the raid, the school’s owner, Phil Ludwig, ordered staff not to talk with investigators.
The school has thus far been able to evade government compliance because California laws against such unlicensed schools have not provided enforcement authority until a recent amendment was enacted. Perhaps surprisingly, such private programs for troubled teens are not subject to any federal regulations.
A June 12 Buzzfeed News article reported that the state is now “on the verge” of shutting the school down for a variety of infractions.
Among abuses at River view, according to the article, school staff “restricted communication with parents, took kids off antidepressants cold turkey, prohibited girls from speaking for days or weeks at a time, failed to report allegations of abuse, and disciplined students for attempting to kill themselves.” Investigators said they also received reports that the school had stockpiled weapons, including AR-15 military-assault-style rifles. California authorities also received complaints that students were punished with sparse, bland food, and by being forced to stand shoeless outside in cold weather, along with other “extreme” retributions for rule-breaking.
A school for sex suppression
River View lawyers contend that in order for the school to comply with amended state law, “it would have to violate its owners’ religious convictions, which treat being gay as a sin.” The changed law bans such facilities from trying to “eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex,” and requires documentation that employees have completed LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) sensitivity training.
In a November 2018 Buzzfeed article, former River View students interviewed by the news site said the school punished them because they said they were gay, lesbian or bisexual.
An article this week in The Christian Post online reported:
“[T]he school fears that it would not be able to uphold its rules reflecting traditional Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. Additionally, the school says that the state requires licensed facilities to allow students to have the right to engage in spiritual and sexual exploration. … [and] the law does not allow for religious exemptions in cases where a religious school would be forced to violate its moral convictions.”
“River View Christian Academy holds the religious convictions that sexual activities are proper only between a man and a woman who are married to each other. Moreover, River View Christian Academy does not allow any sexual or romantic encounters or entanglements between students of any kind.”
School fears having to teach ‘neutral’ religion
The Post said school officials are also worried that the academy could be forced to accommodate religious rituals incompatible with Christianity and even be required to teach all religions from a neutral vantage.
The school is receiving pro bono support from the Pacific Justice Institute, which specializes in religious-freedom cases. PJI’s lead attorney in the River View case, Kevin Snider, characterizes the state’s focus on the school as “militant.”
“In 25 years of practice, I have never seen this level of aggressive, militant, and ideologically-driven conduct by a State agency against a religious institution. For years, as the public schools have become increasingly hostile toward parents, the courts have insisted that the parents’ option is to instead choose private education. Now, that fundamental right is also under attack. This armed incursion on a faith-based school shows that the State wants nothing less than to take jurisdictional control over Christian education in California. This is rooted in its disagreement with millennia-old religious values.”
Yet, regardless of the expanded state law, because the school receives no public funding it can legally reject any student it chooses to not enroll.
Should teaching kids nonsense be legal?
The overarching question should be why any school in our secular democratic republic should be allowed to teach any children, especially at-risk kids, demonstrable nonsense — such as that homosexuality is immoral — simply because the text in an ancient book says so.
Science confirms that such behavior is normal along a wide and fluid range of natural human sexual expression in every race and culture.
Religious freedom should be a private right for adults, not a public right for schools — public or private — to indoctrinate children in unverifiable religious fantasies presented as real-world actualities.
After all, the Bible also teaches that God routinely ordered the slaughter of innocent women and children. So, by this so-called divine measure, such behavior should be OK to teach to American children in Christian schools, right?
Only in a dangerous fantasy world.