Federal Judge Rules California Charter Schools are “Public,” May Not Provide Religious Curriculum

Federal District Court Judge John A. Mendez ruled last week that, as public schools, two California charter schools need not provide religious instructional materials. The ruling came in response to the lawsuit Woolard v. Thurmond, filed by a Texas-based legal advocacy firm known for its defense of religious liberties.


The Charter Schools

The suit challenged two nonclassroom-based charter schools, Visions in Education and Blue Ridge Charter School, and also named a sponsoring district and State Superintendent Thurmond as defendants. Like many other nonclassroom-based charter schools, both Visions and Blue Ridge allow parents and students to collaborate with teachers to select from a broad range of instructional materials that are pre-approved by the schools, are non-sectarian, and are part of their standards-aligned instructional program. The plaintiffs asserted that the schools’ refusal to provide parents with the ability to choose religious materials violated their constitutional right to “free exercise” of religion, a right protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Law Generally Prohibits Religious Instruction in Charter Schools

California law, including both the California Constitution and the Charter Schools Act, contains strong prohibitions on...

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