(© 1998 Utah State University Press)
"[A] perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters," wrote James Madison in 1822, is the best course, for "religion & Gov. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together." In 1832, the author of the First Amendment wrote a letter to Rev. Jasper Adams further explaining his position. "The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded against by an entire abstinence of the Gov. from interference in any way whatever..."
"Beliving with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God," President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association on January 1, 1802, "...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."
And yet the theocrats down at Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy have an LDS seminary built right into their taxpayer-funded-school. So there's a wall, architecturally speaking but there's a door too.
A new publicly funded charter school and an LDS seminary share the same roof in Lindon, but they're entirely separate institutions, educators say.I believe even the across the street seminaries already are skirting too close to the line, especially when students used to get course credit for attending them. Which is why the Utah Supreme Court ruled in 1981 that "students could be released from school for religious programs, but the instruction needs to take place separately, funded with separate resources."
"It's not accessible from our school," he said. "You have to go outside and go around to get to it."
But he acknowledged Maeser Prep students, who study liberal arts using the Socratic method, benefit from its location.
"It's convenient to have it close," he said. "Students go back and forth from [seminary] time to our classes."
Locating a seminary and public school in the same structure could cause some people to believe the school is subsidizing the church, said Carol Lear, director of school law and legislation for the Utah Office of Education. Being across the street from a public school, which is typical for an LDS seminary, gives a different appearance.
"There certainly is an issue of perception," she said. "It does matter that they're in the same building. Does it make it illegal? I'm not sure I can say that."
When people accidently enter into the seminary thinking they are entering into the charter school, it is a problem. I hope somebody sues them.