California Charter School Refuses to Reverse Decision to Ban Christian Books
Recently, an unidentified employee of the Springs Charter Schools in Temecula, California, informed one of the parents that he/she was instructed to “remove all books with a Christian message, authored by Christians, or published by a Christian publishing company.”
Pacific Justice Institute issued this statement:
PJI attorney, Michael Peffer, sent the school a cease-and-desist letter on August 22, citing long-established Supreme Court precedent that strongly disapproves of school libraries removing books based on opposition to their content or message.
Last week, the Superintendent of Springs Charter Schools, Dr. Kathleen Hermsmeyer, ignored the precedent in PJI’s letter and instead insisted, “We . . . do not allow sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves.”
PJI President Brad Dacus commented, “It is alarming that a school library would attempt to purge books from religious authors. Indeed, some of the greatest literature of Western Civilization comes from people of faith. Are they going to ban the sermons or speeches of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? What about the Declaration of Independence that invokes the laws of nature and nature’s God? We are calling on Springs Charter Schools to immediately reverse their ill-conceived and illegal book-banning policy.”
PJI responded to the school this week by sending a public records request and is prepared to take further legal action if the school continues to ignore its constitutional obligations.
Hermsmeyer issued this statement on September 24:
“On August 22, Michael Peffer of the Pacific Justice Institute contacted my office at Springs Charter Schools about a conversation…between a parent of a Springs Charter Schools’ student and an employee of Springs Charter Schools, neither of whom were identified. The conversation took place in the Springs Resource Library, which is a warehouse for textbooks we use in our school programs…
At Springs Charter Schools, we’re pleased to welcome families of a variety of religious backgrounds, including many Christians, and do not discriminate against or disparage anyone because of their religious beliefs. We can and do provide educational novels with religious perspectives, including Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. However, like every other public school in the State of California, we cannot legally maintain religious textbooks on our warehouse shelves for distribution to our families. Donated items are made available to our families at no cost. Any and all donated items are not incorporated onto the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse. The only materials we maintain on the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse are items we have purchased ourselves in accordance with the laws of our State.
We regret that our policy has been perceived by some as hostility toward a particular religious perspective. It is not. We value each of our families and respect their personal beliefs, and each day strive to give our students a quality public school education in accordance with the laws of our State.”
I called PJI’s attorney, Michael Peffer. He gave me this response to the school’s press release:
I saw the school’s press release, and this is not a reversal of their decision at all. People might argue whether or not they are legally obligated to take the books off the shelves if they are text books or part of the curriculum. We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about books that have a library book type marking, as opposed to donated books being given away because they can’t have them in the library. The school’s press release has made the issue more confusing than it was before. She appears to be mushing together the issue of textbooks versus non-textbooks.
Right now it remains to be seen—we are waiting on more information from the school, with whom we filed a Public Records Access Request.
Is the employee who told our clients they had to “remove all books with a Christian message, authored by Christians, or published by a Christian publishing company” right or wrong? If that happened, it doesn’t matter—it’s way too overbroad; however, if we get information that shows we’re wrong, we’ll say it. We always do. In this case, we believe the information we obtained from a parent is reliable.
PJI’s request to the school is simple. Did they decide to take books off their shelves based on the criteria of them having a Christian author, Christian subject or by a Christian publisher? This is the exact criteria relayed by the employee to our client.
This is warped thinking, and we have to stop this. It’s part of our founding— it’s part of us as a people—it’s part of our fabric, and people are trying to take it away.
What we have here is an overt control of the thought police. When people practice bullying (whether verbal or physical) or murder, the motivation is first and the thought is second. Historically, it has always been the negative act was prosecuted which was sufficient. Now we have a double jeopardy, adding an extra penalty for the thoughts that preceded the cause. This is overkill; but even worse, the thought policy is being embraced—very chilling indeed!
In case you had any doubt, our schools have become centralized in Washington, DC and are no longer under local control.