Religious Liberty White Paper

Posted on Feb 11, 2019 by Mark Muehl - School Choice

The Indiana Non-Public Education Association (INPEA) supports the religious diversity and religious liberties of our member school communities.

Every child is an individual, and every student arrives at school with a unique set of abilities, needs, and goals. That’s why the diversity of Indiana’s schools is one of our state’s greatest strengths. Hoosier families choose from a broad range of school types, academic settings, and educational programs. The choices available in Indiana help ensure that every child’s individual needs are met.

Schools are not all the same, but all contribute to an educated citizenry. All of Indiana’s schools — public and non-public, secular and faith-based — serve the common good. This is no less true of religious and parochial schools. The first schools in our state were founded by religious communities long before public schools were organized, and many continue to serve students today.

Many Indiana families voluntarily choose to enroll their children in faith-based schools. This choice is protected by Indiana law. Among INPEA’s 400 members are schools affiliated with Catholic, Lutheran, Christian, Jewish, Adventist, Muslim, or independent and non-denominational faiths.

Religious faith and expression are not purely private matters to be confined to the four walls of a church, synagogue, or mosque; rather, faith is something to be lived out in community. Therefore, every faith-based school has the right and the responsibility to define its mission, programs, and practices according to the sincerely held religious beliefs and traditions of its faith community.

Hoosier families and students participating in the income-based Indiana choice programs do not, and should not give up their right to select a faith-based school. In 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Choice Scholarship Program does not violate the Indiana Constitution. In 1925, the United States Supreme Court, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, affirmed as a fundamental principle of liberty that the child is not the “mere creature of the state.” This landmark decision excluded any general power of the state to force children to attend only public schools, consequently upholding the natural right of parents to choose the means of educating their children.

Likewise, non-public schools choosing to participate in state accreditation or choice programs do not forfeit the right to define their missions, programs, and practices according to sincerely held religious beliefs and faith traditions.

INPEA encourages its members to disclose information about school mission, religious beliefs and practices, curriculum, and expectations of students, parents, employees, and guests. Our faith-based schools should share detailed information about religious beliefs and practices, school mission, admissions procedures, religious instruction, employment criteria, facility use policies, expectations of student conduct, disciplinary procedures, and handbooks for students, parents, and personnel. These resources must be clear, consistent, and affirmed by all associated with the school.

Religious belief and expression are the first liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution. INPEA supports the religious diversity and the religious freedoms of our member school communities, and their ability to educate all students who choose to attend.

(This whitepaper was adopted by the Board of Directors of INPEA in February 2017. The Lutheran Schools Partnership (TLSP) is a member of INPEA.)