ACLU Skeptical of Changes to Kasich’s Mentorship Program
CLEVELAND—The ACLU of Ohio questions whether the religious requirement has actually been eliminated from Governor John Kasich’s Community Connectors mentorship program despite recent changes by the Ohio Department of Education, according to Executive Director Christine Link.
The ACLU maintains its skepticism that the faith-based requirement satisfies constitutional protections against religious endorsements by the state. It will take a wait-and-see attitude to assess the program.
“The new language regarding what type of group qualifies for their faith-based requirement is purposely vague and confusing,” Link said. “How can the Ohio Department of Education now say secular, non-religious groups qualify as faith-based partners? Moreover, why would many of these organizations even apply for the program? It just doesn’t make sense.
“Rather than creating an inclusive program that gives all organizations an equal chance to help students, this program will exclude groups that may have great resources to offer,” Link said. “The faith-based requirement is divisive and should be dropped to allow this program to move ahead in serving its ultimate goal of enriching educational experiences for Ohio’s children.”
The ACLU will continue to monitor the program’s implementation to ensure that: religious organizations are not selected over non-religious ones; secular groups are not dissuaded from applying; and grant monies are not used to proselytize.
In addition, state officials continue to stall the investigation by The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the ACLU Program on Religious Freedom and Belief into the Community Connectors. The ACLU sent a letter to Governor Kasich and ODE Superintendent Richard Ross on December 17, 2014, requesting all information regarding the program. To date, nothing has been received from either the governor’s office or the ODE.
“Given all the uncertainties surrounding the program, it’s inexcusable that the governor and superintendent have further delayed this process by failing to comply with our request for records,” Link said.