Religious Affiliation Mandatory for Ohio Student Mentoring Program

John Kasich


The Ohio Department of Education no longer requires schools to form an alliance with religious organizations to receive funding from Governor John Kasich’s proposed $10 million student-mentorship program.

On January 15, department officials released a statement clarifying the definition of “faith-based organizations” had been broadened to include non-religious groups as well. However, American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the former requirement, calling it unconstitutional, said the revised definition was appalling and failed to resolve the problem.

“It’s clear that this was always intended to be a religious experience. This confusing language does not let them off the hook,” said Chris Link, executive director of ACLU Ohio.

But John Charlton, spokesperson of the state’s education department, said the definition was revised only because ACLU had certain objections.

“We want values-driven organizations involved in this,” he said.

Under the revised requirement, schools that want to receive the state grant can now form an alliance with any organization that bases its mission on the belief that each child’s life has a purpose and imbibing values such as discipline, hard work and responsibility, will make sure that purpose is fulfilled.

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Ohio Governor John Kasich said recently any school that wishes to participate in a new mentoring program aimed at students must affiliate with a religious organization to receive government funding. The new program offers schools $10 million from casino profits made by the state but these benefits are intended for those school districts only that comply with Ohio’s parochial mandate. Ohio’s rule states that schools need to work with businesses, a faith-based organization and a non-profit to be privy to this financial aid.

According to Ohio Department of Education, schools cannot work with only two of the above organizations because if religion is excluded, the mentoring program at the school district will not receive any funding from the government.

“The faith-based organization is clearly at the heart of the vision of the governor,” said Buddy Harris, a senior policy analyst for the department. He added that the state does “not foresee any proselytizing happening between mentors and students. … That’s not really what we’re seeking.”

However according to local media, when this law was passed, there was no requirement that schools associate themselves with faith-based organizations to receive any funding whatsoever.

“Eligible school districts shall partner with members of the business community, civic organizations, or (italics added) the faith-based community to provide sustainable career advising and mentoring services,” the law reads.

In fact, Kasich forgot to mention this faith-based requirement at the signing ceremony of the bill. Yet, as Kasich’s spokesperson, Rob Nichols, explained, the Governor is of the opinion that faith-based organizations have an important role to play in the lives of young individuals today.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia

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