Why Are Taxpayer-Funded Charter Schools in Texas Involved in a Christian Athletic League? August 24, 2014

Why Are Taxpayer-Funded Charter Schools in Texas Involved in a Christian Athletic League?

The Texas Christian Athletic League was formed in 1991 with a very specific purpose:

[It was formed] with a heart toward providing high school student athletes with a competitive sports arena within a Christian culture… It has been a road paved with ups and downs, and though our league is young we have learned a vast amount and improved a great deal. Our future is bright because we can accomplish all things through Christ and through your support.

The by-laws even state that schools can be terminated from the league for failing in the area of “Christian conduct.”

Now, that’s perfectly fine for a group of Christian schools. They can compete against each other while forming friendly rivalries, they can have their pre-game prayers, they can attend chapel services together.

But why the hell are more than a dozen public, taxpayer-funded charter schools on their list of members?

That’s what the Freedom From Religion Foundation would like to know after receiving a complaint from what seems to be a parent whose child attends one of those charter schools. Attorney Sam Grover sent a letter to the schools warning them that further involvement could lead to a church/state entanglement. So far, two schools have done the right thing and dropped their membership. But only two.

The league’s director, Darryl Crain, says the religious aspects of the league are optional for the charter school members, but let’s face it: students would reasonably assume their schools are promoting Christianity through participation in the league.

In a letter to member schools, Crain described the group of mostly small Christian schools and home school leagues as being “persecuted by radical elements of our society.” He wrote that the silent majority is being bullied.

Grover, whose organization has more than 20,000 members, said the situation in Texas is clear-cut.

“So far all the responses we have received have been favorable, as this is a pretty obvious violation,” he wrote in an email. “We will follow up with any school that fails to respond to our initial letter and will evaluate our legal options after that point.”

This isn’t a radical action and nobody’s being bullied. The charter schools made a mistake by joining the league in the first place and the FFRF is simply asking them to correct it. But if the schools want to roll the dice and see what a judge has to say, they’re welcome to do it. But they’ll eventually pay FFRF’s legal fees if they do.

Incidentally, both schools that opted out of the league did so before FFRF’s letter arrived:

Jeanne Culver, a spokeswoman for Texas Can Academies, said the San Antonio campus withdrew from the league after receiving the foundation’s letter. That school had participated in girls volleyball and boys and girls basketball.

“The superintendent learned that this is not appropriate because of public funds,” Culver said.

Austin Can Academy was previously a league member but withdrew before the letter.

The principal and superintendent of City Center Health Careers in San Antonio said his school had left the league before receiving the warning letter.

“We saw several issues where there was indeed a church/state incorporation and allowed for exposure to one specific religion rather than an eclectic approach to exposure to other cultures or religions,” Michael Moretta wrote in an email.

“Our charter specifically makes clear we will not mix church and education, even in athletics.”

Those other administrators better be asking themselves what these charter schools’ leaders know that they don’t.

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