Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has written both DHS and the state Education Department to express concerns about more than $500,000 in Arkansas Better Chance for School Success money going to Growing God’s Kingdom. Based on documents it has discovered through Freedom of Information requests, Americans United says it believes the payment of public funds is unconstitutional. It asks for an investigation and, if necessary, remedial action.
Here’s a copy of the Americans United letter, (link corrected) with attached public documents indicating the religious flavor of Harris’ operation.
I’ve sought comments from Harris, DHS and the state Education Department. Few responses so far, in part because I may have received news of the letter before the targeted agencies. I did reach Harris’ wife, Marsha, who helps operate the daycare. She referred questions to her husband. She wouldn’t comment whether the school still requires daily “Bible time” for its children as plans on file with the state show.
If Harris ran a private school that didn’t get any tax payer money, this wouldn’t be an issue. But Harris of course has raked in a huge chunk of money for his school. He maintains he doesn’t use any of the money to promote his religious views, but A) you can’t legally promote a religion in a school receiving public financing and B) you’d have to be stupid to believe that he was telling the truth about that. What’s more, Harris’s bizarre fundamentalist standards are attracting attention:
The complaint includes copies of school documents with overt religious messaging including an employee handbook that says employees are expected to “share the love of Jesus” with children and “teach them the word of God” so that they may spread it to others. Parents are told not to send children to school with items bearing emblems of Pokemon, Scooby Doo, Harry Potter, Digimon, Teletubbies, Power Puff Girls and others that may be associated with “witches, goblins, ghost or evil content.”
Does it really count as “witches, goblins, ghosts or evil content” if the monster turns out to be a bad guy in a mask at the end of every episode? For that matter, how in the world is Pokemon connected to the powers of hell? Oh, wait…he may have a point on that one… Beyond all that, I guess I might also make the point that if it turned out Harris was doing the exact same thing with Islam or Wicca or some other religion not of the Judeo-Christian persuasion there’d be a mob of angry fundamentalists demanding the school be closed down. But I digress.
One last note here. This is part of the lasting legacy of the work Matt Campbell and Jeff Woodmansee did over at the Blue Hog Report. God I miss ‘em being with us in the fray. Harris would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and their blog.