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Report: Kennesaw School That Bans Gays Receives State Dollars

Schools that "exclude, condemn, and demonize students for who they are and who they accept in their lives" should not receive public funds, according to a report from an Atlanta education policy group.

Some scholarship money generated through a Georgia tax credit program has been used at religious schools that ban gay, lesbian and bisexual students, according to a report released this month.

Two of the schools mentioned in the report from the Southern Education Foundation, an Atlanta education policy group, are in North Cobb.

At Shiloh Hills Christian School in Kennesaw, the standard of conduct policy is clear. A student who says “I am gay,” “I am a homosexual” or “I like boys” will be expelled.

"We are who we are," administrator John Ward said Tuesday afternoon. "We're very open about who we are. There's nothing secret about who we are and what we stand for."

And North Cobb Christian School in Acworth "reserves the right to refuse admission to an applicant or to discontinue the enrollment of a student if the conduct within the home or the conduct of the student is in opposition to the biblical lifestyle taught by the school," according to its website. "This includes sexual immorality, homosexual orientation or inability to support the moral principles of the school."

While North Cobb Christian officials did not respond to a request for comment, Shiloh Hills' Ward said his school has never had to expel or deny admission to students based on sexual orientation during its 33 years of operation.

The Southern Education Foundation does not take issue with the policies of schools such as Shiloh Hills and North Cobb Christian. They have a constitutional right to believe whatever they want to believe and to operate their private affairs in accordance with those beliefs, the foundation said.

But schools that "exclude, condemn, and demonize students for who they are and who they accept in their lives" should not receive public funds, the foundation wrote in its report. "Tax dollars should go to schools that educate all students. That is the promise and virtue of our democracy."

Ward disagrees with the first part of the foundation's assessment.

"To say that we have no right to that (money), we didn't set the law up," he said.

Legislators in 2008 established a tax credit program to allow individual and corporate taxpayers to contribute to qualified student scholarship organizations and receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against their Georgia income tax liabilities. SSOs provide the funds to private schools for all or part of a student’s tuition.

Faith First Georgia in Marietta operates the SSO that makes it possible for needy students to attend Shiloh Hills. Business manager Sandra L. Chicoine said that the organization would respond later this week to the Southern Education Foundation's report, which has made national news.

The report does not list how much each school has received since 2008, and Ward said he would "rather not give an amount.

"... This is just a great opportunity for underprivileged or needy families to get into a private school that has a quality education."

While the amounts awarded to each school are unknown, more than $170 million in taxpayer funds have been set aside to cover the tuition costs of students in private schools during the last four years.

And the Southern Education Foundation knows of at least 115 private schools in the tax credit scholarship program that have severe anti-gay policies or belong to state and national private school associations that promote anti-gay policies, according to the report.

"Altogether, as much as one-third of all private schools participating in Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program may be governed by the schools’ explicit anti-gay policies or their church’s anti-gay statements of faith," according to the report.

And that count, according to the report, is likely an understatement.

Click here to read the full report from the Southern Education Foundation. It is also attached to this article as a PDF.

Should public money be used to assist needy families who want to send their children to private schools with explicit anti-gay policies? Tell us in the comment box below.

Rick Paul January 30, 2013 at 01:25 PM
Why is it that rights only go one way? The school has every right to have its guidelines. We pay congress and ploiticians dont we? We ourselves pick and choose where we shop or donate dont we?
Rodney Thrash January 30, 2013 at 03:27 PM
Thanks for your comment, Rick! The report does not take issue with the schools' rights and/or policies. The foundation asserts that public money should not be used at these schools. Tax dollars, the foundation said, should go to schools that educate all students. What are your thoughts about that assessment?
R. Lee Bays January 30, 2013 at 03:53 PM
If a private school wants to promote anti-gay bigotry, and if parents want to steep their children in it, that's their choice. This is about taxpayers supporting it, which is unacceptable.
Debra Williams January 30, 2013 at 04:36 PM
This is a Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship used by individuals to CHOOSE where they want their monies to go. A designation line on the form itself allows the TAX PAYER to choose which school they wish their tax credit to be applied. IT'S THE DONORS CHOICE!!! The state MUST ABIDE by the request of the tax payer, they can't do with it what they will. I've worked with non-profit, private Christian Schools promoting this for their school and students. Visit the Georgia Dept. of Revenue website, click on forms and go through those, Research and stating facts is true journalism, everything else is opinion. A CHRISTIAN PRIVATE school has the right to refuse anyone whose lifestyle, etc. is in direct conflict with their beliefs and teachings - that's why it's a PRIVATE SCHOOL. Parents CHOOSE where they want their children to go and if they don't have a problem abiding by the rules, why should the school be FORCED to compromise their rules for political correctness or personal lifestyle choice. I do not believe private organization should be forced to accept any conflict of belief just to satisfy political correctness. The money is not the state's - it's the taxpayers! Yes, it is public money, but the public it belongs to is an individual who is given the opportunity to choose. The foundation needs to worry less about finding fault to gain their 15 minutes of fame and more about making sure the state abides by the law written for the program.
Clayton Gibson January 30, 2013 at 05:29 PM
One sentence. Public funds should not be used for private schools.
Debra Williams January 30, 2013 at 07:16 PM
This is TAXPAYER's money - not the state's! You really need to read what the program is and how it works.
R. Lee Bays January 30, 2013 at 07:30 PM
Let me see if I follow. Married filing jointly, I can use this law to get a dollar for dollar tax credit of $2500, which means that the state is receiving $2500 fewer dollars in revenue than it would have otherwise, and then I can direct that money to a non-profit SSO, and further I can tell that non-profit which Christian school I want the tax credit to go to, and finally I can claim the $2500 as a charitable contribution on my federal taxes. Is that correct?
Debra Williams January 30, 2013 at 08:26 PM
Typing in all caps is screaming. Typing only certain words is 'emphasis'!
Clayton Gibson January 30, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Taxpayers are the public Debra. I am a member of the public. I pay taxes. I don't want my tax money to go to private organizations.
R. Lee Bays January 30, 2013 at 10:39 PM
Debra, it doesn't become TAXPAYER's money, until after the tax credit is granted by the state correct? In which case it's actually state revenue being redirected to private schools via non profit organizations via taxpayer credits. If this is not the case, please tell me what I'm misunderstanding.
Debra Williams January 31, 2013 at 12:50 AM
The money in that pot comes from individuals who have chosen to donate their tax check back to those organizations (i.e. I know I'm getting $500 back on my taxes based on the previous year, so I fill out the form with my information, fill in $500 in the allotted space. Once approved (based on their information of qualifying me) I write a check to the SSO and they in turn send it to the designated school, which may or may not be a Private Christian School - taxpayer (donors) choice. If I owe more than what I allotted I simply write a check to the state, less the $500, which is considered a donation based on the way the program was set up through the state to encourage tax payers to become more involved financially in the education system. Jim Kelly, the president of Solidarity Center For Law and Justice an Atlanta Civil and Human Rights Public Interest Law firm wrote a great piece on just this issue. Now, when someone donates their 'return from the state' to an organization, I believe they should have the right to designate it as they choose through this program. What I've said all along - the taxpayers money is theirs to do with as they see fit. If ones doesn't want their money going to an organization they feel is bias - then just don't fill out the paperwork. The state can not take your taxes and put it in this program - it's all based on the public's enrollment in it. If I don't like the beliefs/rules of an organization, I don't support them physically or financially.
Paul L. Dragu January 31, 2013 at 12:51 AM
It seems mainstream thought consistently confuses anti-homosexuality for anti-rights, and anti- 'people' in general. To me that indicates one thing in particular; Most people can't think for themselves. If mainstream media would have said that being against the act of smoking crack is anti-civil rights and a bigoted view, every media outlet would start black-balling any school or restaurant who are against the act of smoking crack. Private school students consistently score astronomically higher than public school students. The "product" they put out ends up benefiting society exponentially. Meanwhile, in public schools, which is all funded by state and/or fed, they teach augmented american history and an acceptance of every idiotic social thought and trend which has caused this society so much hurt, not to mention their performance is crap. Piles of state and federal money is spent on diplomatic spa sessions, comedians, and failed energy experiments, yet b/c the trendy thing is to gang up on any people or institutions who think the act of homosexuality is morally wrong, we have gotten to the point where we blindly agree that it makes sense to want to retract support from the few outlets that are benefiting our world. Simply ridiculous.
Debra Williams January 31, 2013 at 01:16 PM
If one will read the Southern Education Foundation's original article they will find they attack private schools who aren't part of this program. So the proof we have that this attack isn't about tax dollars being spent in private schools is supported by the fact they list numerous schools with anti-gay/lesbian/bi-sexual guidelines that aren't part of an SSO or the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship program. The article starts out mentioning the funds going to private venues, but once past half of page one and on to page 17 it's evident the argument is about private Christian schools not being tolerant of an alternative lifestyle. One issue hiding behind the premise of another is always brought light when actually investigated thoroughly.
R. Lee Bays January 31, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Debra, the law calls this a dollar for dollar tax credit. A tax credit is a direct reduction of the tax due. If I owe the state $5000 in taxes, by using this law, I can send $2500 of that money to Mt. X Christian school and the state only gets $2500. How is that not redirecting funds away from state coffers and toward parochial school?
Concerned Citizen January 31, 2013 at 02:12 PM
A relevant point that hasn't been touched on in the above comments ... The Supreme Court ruled on the issue of whether tax credit contributions were public money or individual taxpayer money. The ruling was that the tax dollars being diverted were not public funds, but instead belonged to the private individual. The contribution, like all other contributions, were ruled to be a private donation from the taxpayer. This legal interpretation and precedent has been completely ignored by SEF. Apparently SEF is above the law and the Constitution is rests upon.
R. Lee Bays January 31, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Debra, I have read the report. These are the schools they list right out of the gate: Augusta Christian School Cumberland Christian Academy Cherokee Christian Schools Shiloh Hill Christian School Providence Christian Academy Hebron Christian Academy Dominion Christian High School Each one of these is a part of the tax scheme. Maybe it would be easier if you would tell us which school in the report is not a part of the program.
R. Lee Bays January 31, 2013 at 02:17 PM
Paul, smoking crack and being gay are not equivalent. The only thing ridiculous here is your astronomically incorrect analogy.
R. Lee Bays January 31, 2013 at 03:29 PM
Concerned Citizen, that was not the ruling. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring suit, not that tax credits were public money. Justice Kagan's dissenting opinion was that "cash grants and targeted tax breaks are means of accomplishing the same government objective- to provide financial support to select individuals or organizations." In showing that not just taxpayers at large, but that gay people specifically are being excluded from this benefit, the SEF is providing evidence that the program "damages" a specific group of taxpayer, not just taxpayers at large.
Clayton Gibson January 31, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Paul, that was the most assinine and ignorant thing I've heard in a long time. Smoking crack is harmful. Being gay is not. You sound like a bigotted fool.
Debra Williams January 31, 2013 at 08:34 PM
I'll leave with this comment, because I actually have to work. I am forced to pay taxes that support MANY organizations and programs that I absolutely and completely disagree with. I am also, as a tax paying citizens, excluded from using many of the programs that my actual tax dollars support and am not given a choice in that matter and I'm excluded because I am a working, white, female. So, please tell me why I can be blatantly discriminated against and it's ok and I am expected to accept it without disagreement, yet another group who doesn't want their tax dollars going to an organization that doesn't allow them to benefit from (this being the gay community since that is the topic here) believes the rules should be different for them? The problem truly lies in Big Government, Government dependency, over-spending, lobbyist, and special interest groups.
Debra Williams January 31, 2013 at 10:58 PM
http://theaquilareport.com/us-supreme-court-upholds-arizona-education-tax-credits-donations-to-student-tuition-organizations-are-legal/ This article explains it better for the lay person (rather than reading through all those court reports) It specifically states that - "In its 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s judgment because the taxpayers who brought the lawsuit do not have legal standing. Under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, a plaintiff must show that he has suffered a particularized concrete injury in order to sue for alleged violations of the Constitution."
Paul L. Dragu February 01, 2013 at 04:44 AM
One day we will all stand before the ultimate Absolutionist and we'll discover that many of the things we've grown to think and been told to think, may have harmed us to a degree unimaginable.Whether or not you believe in the living God doesn't matter, b/c He either exists or not. And if the one God of the BIble truly exists, then we'll find that the consequences of smoking crack may be far less harmful than those of being gay. So if your intellect/emotional gauge is one devised by a society who drowns itself in mood-pills and fast-food while living vicariously through clowns on television, then you can view what I say ignorant and asinine all day, because your gauge is off, and the temperature proves it.
Paul L. Dragu February 01, 2013 at 04:53 AM
Debra, I love that you've actually read Southern Education Foundation's original article. What you say doesn't surprise one bit. There's obviously a mass campaign to compare the homosexual "movement" to the Civil Rights movement and smear anyone not on board, which I think provides the litmus test of whether someone is actually intelligent or not. Last time I checked, unlike your sexual preference you could not hide your skin color. Also, I have never heard of a black man going back to white, or a white man experiencing with being black. I know I was accused of making a ridiculous analogy earlier, but I find it sad and funny that there is such a great portion of people who claim they can read and reason, who accept the ridiculous comparison of gay acceptance to the Civil Right movement.
Clayton Gibson February 01, 2013 at 09:51 PM
Dear Paul, Republicans. Nuff said. "I pay too much is taxes! God says gays are bad! Go get a job!" You're all the same. I have a job, I pay my taxes, I am tolerant of my fellow man, I am not gay. But how dare you say that being gay is a choice. You have proven yourself to be a traditional southern bigot like I said. LGBT rights are just as important as the civil rights movement. Brush up on your American history. "All men are created equal." You have no right judging anyone.
Paul L. Dragu February 02, 2013 at 12:34 AM
You're not gay. How do you know it's not a choice? And who said it was a choice? And if someone were to DARE say being gay is a choice, it's not as crazy as Chris Mathews would have you believe. Genome studies have found genes and studies that indicate that being gay is more a predisposition akin to an alcoholic's increased probability of being an alcoholic after X amount off drinking, as opposed to someone is not predisposed who can have the same amount of drinks and not become an alcoholic. And spare me the don't-judge-rhetoric. You just "judged" us as southern bigots because we happen to think being gay is morally wrong. You assumed just b/c of my stance on homosexuality that I think I pay too much taxes and I am against welfare.
R. Lee Bays February 02, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Don't worry, if your intellect/emotional gauge is one informed by a patriarchal society who worshiped a bronze age Hebrew war god that celebrated slavery, genocide, infanticide, etc. and that laid the groundwork for discrimination 2500 years later, then we will view what you say as ignorant and asinine.
R. Lee Bays February 02, 2013 at 03:57 PM
What are your tax dollars going to that you not want to support? Military? Public Health? Environmental Regulation? And how are you being discriminated against? Are you being told by the government that you can't marry the person you love? Equality is not a benefit.

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