Some scholarship money generated through a Georgia tax credit program has been used at religious schools that ban gay, lesbian and bisexual students, according to a report released this month.
According to the report, "Providence Christian Academy, with nearly 800 students in Lilburn, Georgia, will deny admission or expel anyone for 'participating in, promoting, supporting, or condoning pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity, or bisexual activity; or … displaying an inability or resistance to support the Academy’s Biblical interpretation of the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically-based and Christ-like lifestyle.'"
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The Southern Education Foundation does not take issue with the policies of the schools. They have a constitutional right to believe whatever they want to believe and to operate their private affairs in accordance with those beliefs, the foundation said.
But schools that "exclude, condemn, and demonize students for who they are and who they accept in their lives" should not receive public funds, the foundation wrote in its report. "Tax dollars should go to schools that educate all students. That is the promise and virtue of our democracy."
And, according to the report Providence Christian Academy policy reaches into students' homes, as well. As stated in the report, like other private schools, the Lilburn school's policy "'reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a student if the atmosphere or conduct within the home or the activities of the student or a parent or guardian either on campus or within the community are counter to or in opposition to a Biblically-based lifestyle.'"
Legislators in 2008 established a tax credit program to allow individual and corporate taxpayers to contribute to qualified student scholarship organizations and receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against their Georgia income tax liabilities. SSOs provide the funds to private schools for all or part of a student’s tuition.
Although the amounts awarded to each school are unknown, more than $170 million in taxpayer funds have been set aside to cover the tuition costs of students in private schools during the last four years.
And, the Southern Education Foundation knows of at least 115 private schools in the tax credit scholarship program that have severe anti-gay policies or belong to state and national private school associations that promote anti-gay policies.
Patch has reached out to Providence Christian Academy's headmaster Jim Vaught, and Claudia Hunt, director of the schools admissions and community relations, for comment.