CCSA Answers: Teaching Religious Curriculum at a Charter School

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December 1, 2011

Question: Can religious curriculum be taught at a charter school?

Answer: Under the California State Constitution, all public education must be of a non-sectarian nature and the teaching or funding of any religious or faith based "public" school is strictly prohibited. Education Code 47605 (d) (1) states that "a charter school shall be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations."

This is not to say that charter schools cannot teach religions in general. According to Education Code 51511,

Nothing in this code shall be construed to prevent, or exclude from the public schools, references to religion or references to or the use of religious literature, dance, music, theatre, and visual arts or other things having a religious significance when such references or uses do not constitute instruction in religious principles or aid to any religious sect, church, creed, or sectarian purpose and when such references or uses are incidental to or illustrative of matters properly included in the course of study.

This means, for example, that in the context of a history class, a school may discuss various religions. In the case of homeschooling, parents who choose to offer religious education to their children must do so outside of the charter school's designated instructional time without using school funds for religious instructional materials.

Find more reference materials, resources and templates in our online Charter School Resource Library. Still can't find what you need? Contact the CCSA Help Desk with your question.