May public schools and religious communities enter into cooperative agreements to help students with such programs as tutoring?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yes, but only if appropriate constitutional safeguards are in place. Remember, public schools must remain neutral among religions and between religion and nonreligion. For that reason, religious groups must refrain from proselytizing students during any cooperative programs with public schools. Participation or nonparticipation by students in such cooperative programs should not affect the student’s academic ranking or ability to participate in other school activities. In addition, cooperative programs may not be limited to religious groups, but must be open to all responsible community groups.

For more detailed guidelines, see “Public Schools and Religious Communities: A First Amendment Guide” published by the American Jewish Congress, Christian Legal Society, and First Amendment Center and co-signed by 12 additional educational and religious organizations (1999).