Court Rejects Church Schools’ challenge to Iowa’s Compulsory Education Law

A federal appeals court rejected a challenge by two fundamentalist church schools to the constitutionality

A federal appeals court rejected a challenge by two fundamentalist church schools to the constitutionality of Iowa's compulsory education law.

The state law required that church-related schools file annual reports with the local public school district listing pupils' names, ages and attendance record, texts used, and teachers employed. In addition, the law required that church schools provide "equivalent instruction" using state-certified teachers. The court concluded that the "burden on [parents'] religious beliefs—if one exists at all—is very minimal and is clearly outweighed by the state's interest in receiving reliable information about where children are being educated and by whom."

In rejecting the claim that standardized testing be used to evaluate the quality of education at the schools instead of requiring certified teachers, the court observed that "certification is the best means available today to satisfy [the state's] interest in the education of its children." The court also ordered that the state's attorneys' fees be paid since the lawsuit was "vexatious and unreasonable," and was based on arguments that had been rejected in the past by numerous courts. Fellowship Baptist Church v. Benton, 815 F.2d 485 (8th Cir. 1987).

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