Kersten: Keep church and state separate, at least when the “church” is Islamic

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In yesterday’s Strib, the ever-vigilant Katherine Kersten blew the whistle on what she deems a disturbing violation of the doctrine of church/state separation by a local charter school founded by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. “The line between religion and culture is often blurry,” warns Kersten. “Under the U.S. and state constitutions, a public school can accommodate students’ religious beliefs but cannot encourage or endorse religion.” The object of her disapproval is the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) in Inver Grove Heights. “TIZA raises troubling issues about taxpayer funding of schools that cross that line,” she frets.

But to paraphrase Orwell, Kersten appears to believe some separations of church and state are more equal than others.

Last fall, Kersten wrote approvingly about the “classical curriculum” being used in several Twin Cities charter schools. The classical curriculum, it turns out, is tinged with Christianity. The group that brought the classical curriculum to Twin Cities charter schools is called the Friends of Ascension. Friends of Ascension got its start in 2003 when Ascension Academy was created on the grounds of the Ascension Catholic Church in Minneapolis, a move that raised eyebrows when the Minnesota Department of Education approved the “secular” charter school.

The Friends of Ascension then began to open more charter schools throughout the Twin Cities with a current total of 18 as of 2008. The classical curriculum model, which Kersten touted, has been implemented in about a half dozen of Friends’ charter schools throughout the Twin Cities.

The Society for Classical Learning, a national organization, says its mission is “to facilitate and encourage thinking and discussion among professionals associated with Christ-centered education in the liberal arts tradition… The Society is committed to historic Christianity as expressed in the Nicene Creed and to exploring the relationship of Christ to the broader culture.”

The Nova Classical Academy, a Friends of Ascension charter school is a member of the Society for Classical Learning, uses a “classical curriculum,” and accepted $1,113,730.65 in taxpayer money in the 2006-07 school year.

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