What would you do if you were told to stop praying or stop receiving payment? This was the option a recent ‘homeschool coop’ in Michigan was given by the public school partnership that paid them for their services provided to their constituency enrolled through their program.

Here is a portion of the letter sent to the coops participating in this particular public-school partnership:

Our Board policy states, “Based on the First Amendment protection against the establishment of religion in the schools, no Board employee will promote religion in the classroom or in the District’s curriculum, or compel or pressure any student to participate in devotional exercises. Instructional activities shall not be permitted to advance or inhibit any particular religion or religion generally…..

I will need to re-evaluate classes that are being offered by faith based organizations. I will be contacting them to determine what can and cannot be reimbursed or paid for. These are the questions I will be asking.

Does your class involve prayer? Is it student led or instructor led? If it is student led, then it is permitted. Does it happen at the beginning, during or at the end of class? If it happens at the beginning or at the end and is optional, then it is permitted.

Does your class involve religious teachings such as verse memorizations and instructions for applications of doctrine? If so, are the students permitted to be exempt from participating?
If the course involves teaching scripture verses, requires scripture memorization, or application of religious doctrine, the course will have to be disallowed. For the course to be exempt, I will need to look at the nature of the religious content and how it is presented.

While the interpretation of the First Amendment is laughable, it is how the current government and its education system understand it’s application. So, what would you do as a coop leader? As a Christian? Take the money and pray on Sunday at church, in your home or some other acceptable venue? Or return the money and go back to your old way of doing things where the vendor received less money for their services, families paid less for these services but perhaps families had fewer service options or a lesser quality of service?

These are questions Christians and support group leaders will increasingly need to think about. Interestingly, in the past month INCH with its ally HSLDA, has been working on EDP legislation and discussing this ‘prayer’ concern. What both of these issues have in common is the government feeling increasingly more emboldened in bringing its rules and regulations into the homeschool partnership.

Some of these partnerships have been around for quite some time without experiencing any government interference or assessment. Times appear to be changing.

Homeschoolers who participate in government programs should expect to follow government guidelines. We should not expect to receive a special exemption from the government from their rules simply because we are ‘homeschoolers.’ We are not a privileged class though it certainly is a privilege, some may call it a right, to educate our children our way in our home. But that’s just it, homeschool partnerships are not homeschooling our children our way in our home. It is the government’s money, sometimes with the government’s curriculum, sometimes not, but always susceptible to the government’s rules. So what kind of homeschooling do you want? Pray or pay?

Mike Winter
INCH Executive Director

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