I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Newsflash: Evangelicals Evangelize!

New Jersey is giving a lot of churchmen the chance to run their own charter schools. Is there anyone so naive that they think these schools will be completely scrubbed free of religion?

Because - and I know this may come as a shock - religious leaders tend to want to proselytize for their religions:

In prior meetings, Ortis had been a nappy-looking homeless drug user, down on his luck. He was a layoff victim plummeting deep into destitution after Tent City/Transitional Park off of Federal Street closed in May 2010.
Ortis has said he was “sold a dream” with The Nehemiah Group’s $200,000 Tent City closure. He claims it didn’t provide necessary services and tried to impose religious views. When it shut down, it put Ortis and about 40 homeless people back on the streets. But Ortis slowly started a resurrection to inspire others. [emphasis mine]
The Nehemiah Group is a venture of Pastor Amir Khan, who was recently given permission by the state to start a charter school in a town that doesn't want it and already has great public schools.

I don't know if Ortis's claim that Nehemiah didn't provide services is true. I absolutely believe, however, that the group brought their religious views into their work with the people who were in Tent City. I would be amazed if they didn't; that's what all deeply religious people do, not just evangelicals.

And there's nothing wrong with that! It's perfectly acceptable for religious people to openly live their faith. It's fine that evangelicals want to convert people, as long as they respect others' wishes. This is religious life in America; it's part of the plurality that makes our country great. I applaud Pastor Khan's work in Tent City, I respect his religious beliefs, and I have no problem with how he brings those to his work.

But it's simply absurd to think the man can turn this on and off like a light switch when he enters the doors of his charter school. The notion that there will not be a religious atmosphere in a school founded by a pastor and his wife and run in their church is simply ridiculous. I feel silly even having to make the argument, because it's so obvious.

But the opening of the larger charter school is essential to the church's plan to buy the land from the diocese, he said.
"We were anticipating the charter school to get additional income to carry us," he said. [emphasis mine]
This conflict of interest should have been enough to disqualify the school right from the start. But I believe it's just as problematic that we're being asked to believe that this school is being founded by a man of God, will be run in his church, but will somehow remain secular. It's a problem with all of the charters that have been supported by the Black Ministers Council. It's a problem with the Hebrew immersion charters (what are they going to be reading in the original Hebrew - Shakespeare?).

In their zeal to push charters, Chris Christie and ACTING Commissioner Cerf are asking us to suspend common sense. No thanks.


Deb said...

I think the main difference between the BMC/ Amir Khan's charter school and the Hebrew language charter movement, is that the latter is far more sophisticated in hiding their motives. They have had more time to figure it out, much more money put into it, and many more layers to sift through. But indeed they are two peas of a pod.....taking us all for a ride. .

Anonymous said...

A church marqee near where I work currently reads:
"charisma without character leads to disaster"
I think of Amir Khan everytime I drive by!