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The Anatomy of an Unaccredited Christian School

pace cartoon
clip from PACE used by many Christian schools and homeschoolers

Originally written in 2014

In this post, I want to take a look at State Line Christian School, an unaccredited fundamentalist Christian school that is operated under the auspices of the Lewis Ave Baptist Church in Temperance, Michigan. I know nothing about this school or church, and everything I write in this post has been gleaned from the church’s or school’s website.

Lewis Avenue Baptist Church, is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church pastored by Steve Hobbins. Pastor Hobbins has been the pastor of the church since 2008. Prior to that, his father was the pastor for 37 years. Like many IFB churches, Lewis Avenue is a franchise operation, handed down from father to son.

In 2001, the church built a 1,300 seat auditorium. I found nothing on the church’s website that states their actual attendance.  Interestingly, I found nothing on their website that stated what they believed. There is one page (link no longer active) that details how a person can go to heaven when they die. Here is the prayer they suggest a sinner pray:

Dear Jesus,

I know I’m a sinner, I know I cannot save myself. I know you died on the cross for my sin. I ask you to come into my heart and forgive my sins, and take me to heaven when I die. AMEN

Lewis Avenue operates a bus ministry, along with a seniors ministry, singles ministry, mentally handicapped ministry, children’s ministry, music ministry, a teen ministry that focuses on soulwinning, and a Spanish ministry. The church also has a Reformers Unanimous chapter.

The centerpiece of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church’s plan to train future IFB leaders is the State Line Christian School. The school’s about page states (link no longer active):

When State Line Christian School opened in 1973, Pastor Hobbins’s vision was to open not just a private school, but a Christian school, one that held the beliefs of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church and the other churches in the Greater Toledo area. The school is Baptist-based with a strong emphasis on evangelism.

State Line started with just a K-4 and K-5, but added grades every year, until they graduated their first class in 1980. It is considered a preparatory school for college – a student’s core classes are chosen for him, and each student gets four years of English, math, and science. The school uses A Beka Book curriculum. State Line has been successful in preparing its students in that better than 90% of graduates go on to pursue college…

State Line is an unaccredited Christian school that uses A Beka Books, the publishing arm of Pensacola Christian College, for their curriculum.  For one child in grade 1 through 12, the tuition cost is $4,000 plus an enrollment fee and an additional costs fee. Total cost for one child? Around $4,100.  For families with two children enrolled the tuition cost is $6,250. Four children? $8,250. The State Line website does not mention if there is an additional tuition cost for more than four children. If a family is delinquent (link no longer active) in making their tuition payments for more than 45 days, their children will not be permitted to attend the school. If payment arrangements are not made, the school will “pursue any and all action to
collect past due money.”
If this step is taken, a 20% fee is added to the amount owed.

Pastor Steve Hobbins is the superintendent and Joshua Newbold is the principal. Both Hobbins and Newbold attended an unnamed, and I assume unaccredited, Bible college. According to the hard to find listing of school staff (no link on school website), the school has 21 teachers:

  • 9 with degrees from unaccredited Hyles Anderson College (IFB)
  • 2 with degrees from unaccredited Tennessee Temple (IFB)
  • 2 with a degree from unaccredited Crown College (IFB)
  • 1 with a secretarial degree from Brown-Mackie College (teaches band and strings)
  • 1 with a degree from Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College (unaccredited?, once affiliated with the GARBC, now Cornerstone University)
  • 1 with a degree from Columbia Bible College
  • 1 with no degree
  • 3 with an unknown degree
  • 1 state certified kindergarten teacher

Out of 21 teachers, only one is certified by the state of Michigan.

State Line Christian School operates under the laws of the Michigan for non-public schools:

  • They are not required to use any particular textbook
  • Their school/church  properties and buildings are exempt from personal and real estate tax
  • They are required to do criminal background checks on all employees
  • They are not required to keep school records
  • They are not required to be accredited by any recognized accrediting body
  • They are not required to use certified or college educated teachers

At one time, Michigan law stated:

  • Teacher certification is optional. A teacher may qualify to work in a nonpublic school in one of the following three ways: obtain a Michigan Teaching Certificate; obtain a substitute, full year, or emergency teaching permit; obtain a bachelor‘s degree.
  • Persons without valid teaching certificates who have the requisite college credit may apply to the Michigan Department of Education for a teaching permit for employment in a nonpublic school under Mich. Admin. Code R 390.1142 (full-year permit); R 390.1143 (substitute permit); and R 390.1144 (emergency permit).
  • Teachers in the regular or elementary grade studies in a private, denominational or parochial school, i.e., a school other than a public school giving instruction to children below the age of 16 years, in the first eight grades, must hold a teaching certificate that would qualify them to teach in like grades of the public schools. Mich.Comp. Laws §§388.552; 388.553.

In 1993, The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the above provision was unconstitutional when applied to families whose religious convictions prohibit the use of certified instructors. In  People v. DeJonge, a lawsuit filed by the fundamentalist Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 for DeJonge and invalidated the requirements mentioned above. Thus, State Line is under no statutory requirement as far as their teachers are concerned, and this is why most them have degrees from unaccredited fundamentalist Christian colleges.

Like all fundamentalist Christian schools, State Line has a strict code of conduct. While I was unable to find a copy of their student manual online, which is not uncommon for fundamentalist schools that want to hide their rules from prying eyes, I did find a 7th-12th grade student conduct agreement form (link no longer active) which must be signed by the student, the school administrator, and the student’s parent. The student must answer in the affirmative or negative to the following questions/statements:

  • Do you attend church regularly? Where?
  • Do you have any objections to saluting the United States Flag, the Christian Flag, or the Bible?
  • Do you understand that the goals and standards of State Line Christian School are based on principles found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?
  • Have you read our Student Handbook carefully?
  • Is there any standard you do not understand? If answered yes, Which one?
  • Will you dress according to the standards of State Line Christian School?
  • Will you establish and have a daily time for devotions?
  • Will you honestly agree to keep all the school’s rules and respect authority without being critical and find fault?
  • Do you want to attend State Line Christian School?

After answering these questions, the student must READ ALOUD:

“As a student of State Line Christian School, I WILL NOT cheat, swear, smoke, gamble, dance, drink alcoholic beverages, use indecent language, use drugs, or behave in a disorderly or disrespectful manner. I WILL maintain Christian standards in courtesy, kindness, morality and honesty. I WILL strive to be of unquestionable character in dress, conduct and other areas of my life. I WILL attend all weekly services of my church unless providentially hindered. I am willing by the enabling of God to refrain from anything good or bad which might cause others to stumble, to bring reproach to the cause of Christ, to cause disrespect to the glory of God, or to be a negative influence in the character development of myself or others. I will at all times seek to maintain a careful discipline and diligence in the pursuit of my academic opportunities. I will cooperate with those in authority over me and will personally maintain respect for properly placed authority.

I realize that keeping the standards depends upon my attitude and spirit towards the goals of Christian Education. My spirit depends upon my heart commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the goals He wants for me during my stay at State Line Christian School.

There is much evidence from Pastors, Christian Educators, and Christian Counselors across our nation that bad music, Hollywood movies,television, and bad companionship affects the character, spirit and performance of students. Any evidence that a student is under the influence or control of such will result in disciplinary measures.

While these standards will be strictly enforced, it needs to be understood that we are far more interested in a student’s spirit and attitude than outward conformity to the standards with a rebellious spirit. The student should know that attitudes show just like actions and will be approved or disapproved.

There are tens of thousands of churches like Lewis Ave Baptist Church and thousands of these churches have schools that are just like State Line Christian School. Thousands of American children are being educated in unaccredited schools, taught by non-certified teachers. These schools use fundamentalist Christian textbooks that teach evolution is a myth and promote American exceptionalism and Christian nationalism. Some of these schools don’t even use textbooks, using instead a self-guided curriculum published by Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) or Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI).

Secularists and humanists think educating children is vitally important. Having an educated populace is for our common good, and it is to everyone’s benefit to make sure every child is adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated. We expect the goverment to regulate schools in such a way that they provide a quality education for every child.

Fundamentalist Christian churches and schools have lobbied legislators and have used lawsuits to demand exemption from state laws that regulate what they can and can not do. In many states, they have been quite successful and this is why there are schools like State Line Christian School. Here in Ohio, any church can start a non-charted, unaccredited religious school. There are no regulations for such schools, and for families who choose to home school, the regulations are few. In others words, many states and local jurisdictions have abdicated their responsibility to regulate and investigate many of the schools that educate their children. (see How to Start a Non-Chartered Christian School in Ohio)

Even worse, right-wing politicians are working hard to pass voucher laws that enable private Christian schools to receive state funding with little or no oversight.  Thousands of American children have their private, religious education paid for by taxpayers. These voucher programs have caused a huge census and financial drain for many public school systems.

I put this post together so readers could see how a typical fundamentalist Christian school operates. I do not know anyone at State Line Christian School or Lewis Ave Baptist Church. They came up in a web search I was doing and I decided that they would be a good example of a non-accredited, private, fundamentalist Christian school.

Should these schools (and home schools) be permitted to operate outside the purview of federal, state, and local authorities? Should they be exempt from the laws that public schools must follow? Should we “trust” these schools to properly educate children without making sure they do so? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

My opinion? ALL schools should be strictly regulated by federal, state, and local government. They should receive NO public funding unless they are. I have no objection to religiously motivated private schools or homeschooling as long as they are properly regulated. We ALL have a vested interest in making sure that American children are adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    I was a fundamentalist homeschooled child in Michigan when that court decision went down. Those were some “scary” days with the fear pimping of HSLDA constantly reminding us that Child Protective Services was likely to show up at our door at any moment and snatch us away from our God-fearing parents.

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    There is so much found wanting in public schooling but when schools are formed for sole purpose of propagating some particular faith, they MUST be overseen but the state to prevent excessive abuse of children. I can see that this particular school has developed to avoid being monitored. Let me state very clearly: Any group that tells people how to dress, how to act and even how to think, and uses punishment to enforce their views, is abusive. Without attending this institution I would be willing to bet my favorite dog that it proffers abuse on a daily basis, for Jeeeeezus sake, amen. Poor children.

    • Avatar
      Melissa Stevens

      Poor children? I got a better education than any public school can offer. My parents both taught there. I don’t necessarily agree with dress code & such but the education far exceeds public school education. Before you speak, go visit the place.

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    What you describe here amounts to child abuse just as surely as were the children being abused in more overt ways. Messing with children’s minds is creating potential adults who do not have the ability to help deal with the very real problems they will face later in life.

    It’s time that the US authorities exerted some leadership, if need be squeezing out state laws, and said that the time has come to stop playing games with children’s education.

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    Bruce said, “We ALL have a vested interest in making sure that American children are adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated.”
    Well, yes but the statement is stronger if you drop the qualifier “American”. All children, everywhere, are the group you to which you refer and you include even my Canadian children, I am sure…
    Youzzz Amurkans, always like to wave flags and go after everybody don’t think zackly like yous do…
    Children are not tainted with religion and patriotism until we adults get hold of the little vipers. Then we properly shape them into little tools, then big tools for our personal or national wars.
    In my rather grumbly way of seeing, it seems to me that we have used a model of terrorism in our own families and nationally. We have learned to harm our own by being harmed and it goes on like this…. now, with the model failing so utterly, we have invented the latest version of terrorism, a new and voracious industry that is international in scale: TERRORISM! Of course, those of us who grew up in homes where we were raised on fire and brimstone, already recognize that this industry has a long history, praise Gawwwd! We see it in schools like the one exposed here. We know the harm let loose, some of us who have lived through it and crumpled, wrecked into adulthood.
    Fundamentalism is terrorism fronted with gentle Jesus and his Cross. Pretty, soft-evangelical private Christian schools are slaughter-houses of innocence. If you have children in one of them, run as fast as you can to save them. Run as if the building was on fire and you are your child’s last hope. Run and escape the horror you have visited on your own blood. You can do so much better.

  5. Avatar

    Since I’m from Michigan I wonder if they picked the Michigan side of the “State Line” because of more favorable laws?
    Normally I’d say parents are the best arbiter for their children’s interest, but religion really muddies those waters. I have a fundamentalist relative, and I find it interesting how the priority is Religion not education. This has resulted in bouts of homeschooling, charter schools, stints in the public school. I find it hard to believe that in the musical chairs version of picking schools their education hasn’t suffered at least some. To be honest I stopped caring quite some time ago when it became clear my input wasn’t appreciated.
    I’m pro on charter schools, though I suspect there is probably a bimodal distribution in the quality of charters. The big stikler for me is they need to be transparent enough so parents can determine if a charter school is a winner or not and for the state to make sure there isn’t embezzlement and other abuses of state money.

  6. Avatar
    August Rode

    Education of children is an enormous can of worms. The purpose of it is so poorly defined as to be virtually useless in being able to assess where any particular educational regimen lies on the spectrum from success to failure. The time for a national (international?) discussion on this topic is long overdue; the can of worms ought to be opened precisely because it is a difficult problem that needs a long-term resolution.

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    I attended Temple Christian School in Dallas, Texas from 6-12 grade. Many of the teachers from this school only had degrees from unaccredited colleges and that is if they had one at all. The curriculum was Abeka or Accelerated Christian Education workbooks. In high school we had daily devotion at the begining of each class period. So actual class time was limited by this. Many of the teachers did not really know how to lesson plan, and if you had questions would simply accuse the student of not reading the lesson. My 9th and 10th grade algebra/geometry teacher had actually failed calculus. He did not have enough knowledge in math to be teaching it, and would often get lost in the problems as he wrote on the chalkboard.
    Many of the teachers would constantly tell us females that we were lower than men and could never be as smart as men. Mr Benton told us that kids who had drowned in a bus leaving a summer camp died because they would not stop sinning. Those are just a couple examples of the mental mind fuckery going on. They were very much christian reconstructionist, and dominionist.
    On top of this was the principal laughlin who allowed kids who had been expelled from DISD into the school as long as they could play football. He instucted these football players to be passed along regardless of their grades. I remember him even making fun of a 12th grader who had trouble reading. this was a student who had been attending there for 5 years. Because of the influx of DISD expelled students there were often fights in class, and the hallways. Imagine trying to pay attention in math class while a fight is going on that the teacher is not going to try to break up. If they played football they would not be expelled, and sometimes laughlin would give swats. But really the quality of education was pure shit. The atmosphere was suffocating, and seeing fights daily was disgusting. Teachers could not teach and students could not learn. They had a huge cheating problem too but the principal told the teachers to just let them. The whole school was a sham for Laughlin to have a football team. So the term Chistian did not make the school a better place for education. So yes charter schools should be regulated to ensure education is actually going on there.

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    Victoria, I am sorry you have had to live like that… I think I would have found the fighting not only disgusting but very traumatizing too. Young people deserve to be respected and to learn freely. Sadly, it seems that spiritual gulags thrive all over the country.
    BUT regarding football, if you read your Bible carefully, football is demanded by God and must be a part of the life of any true Christian. I can’t remember the exact verse but I am sure it is something about Jesus being a quarterback and us the guys running like hell to catch ‘the pass’… something like that…. you’ll find it if you look. Definitely New Testament… Or was it a preacher’s sermon? Well, doesn’t matter… Football is Christian and Biblical and I trust you understand the truth now. 😉

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    I bet you believe in separation of church and state, except of course when you want our corrupt government to intervene in the church. You talk of child abuse, right now the government is starting to require public schools to promote and celebrate transgenderism,which according to the American College of Pediatricians is child abuse and harmful to children. But that’s ok right?

    You speak of evolution. The public schools teach it as fact, however, it’s still called the THEORY of evolution. Which by definition means it has not been proven. I guess the government is afraid of competition.

    Since science is your god, please explain why public schools are ignoring basic biology that there are two genders male and female. Do your precious scientist have this incorrect? If so, then we’re supposed to believe them about lies like global warming?

    I went to public school all through Elementary and high school and college. Public education has no interest and teaching the children of this nation. Public educations only goal is to indoctrinate our kids with social justice propaganda. Public education only interested in rewriting American history to fit today’s liberal Progressive agenda.

    You speak of accreditation. As if the federal government which is corrupt in all forms has any idea what constitutes being certified or accredited. I know many a home school child and their education,knowledge,logic and reasoning is superior in almost every situation compared to a publicly educated child.

    If you don’t like Christians or the church let them live their lives quit looking for fights, they have the freedom to practice and educate as they see fit. This not Russia yet, but Progressive liberals like yourself sure are doing everything they can to get us there.

    • Avatar
      Michael Mock

      All right. ::sigh:: Let’s break this down.

      “I bet you believe in separation of church and state, except of course when you want our corrupt government to intervene in the church.”

      No, we’re pretty much straight-up in favor of the separation of Church and State. However, that also means that criminal law should be applied fairly and evenly (as much a human beings can manage it) with no special exceptions for religious figures or religious institutions.

      ” You talk of child abuse, right now the government is starting to require public schools to promote and celebrate transgenderism…”

      Your idea of “promote and celebrate” is a bit different from mine, I think. As far as I can see, what’s actually going on is more “treat it as something fairly normal” as opposed to, say, ostracizing and punishing transgender folks for being who they are — which I’m guessing is your preferred approach, and which does definite and measurable harm to people, a fact which puts such behavior in direct conflict with Matthew 22:39. That’s your lookout, though — not mine.

      “…which according to the American College of Pediatricians is child abuse and harmful to children.”

      If you’re going to cite authoritative-sounding organizations, please try to find one that is an actual medical organization rather than a political group publishing conclusions that go completely against our current medical understanding.

      “But that’s ok right?”

      Given that your reasons for disapproving it seem to be completely devoid of factual grounding, I’m going to with, “Yes, yes it is.”

      “You speak of evolution. The public schools teach it as fact, however, it’s still called the THEORY of evolution.”

      You’re at least vaguely aware of the difference between the use of “theory” in casual conversation and the use of “theory” in the context of scientific research and understanding, I hope?

      “Which by definition means it has not been proven.”

      Ah. No, apparently you aren’t. So the Theory of Evolution is, “by definition,” unproven? I assume that’s in much the same way that the Theory of Gravity is, by definition, unproven? (Incidentally, and you can do your own reading on this if you like, we actually have a much better understanding of the mechanisms of evolution — how it works, in other words — than we do of gravity.)

      “I guess the government is afraid of competition.”

      Okay, I’m beginning to worry, here. Are you sure you’re not a fellow atheist who’s trolling us with a particularly clever parody of how some believers sometimes behave?

      “Since science is your god…”

      Wait, what? That literally makes no sense. Science is our best method for understanding the material Universe and the world around us. That’s it, that’s all. It’s not some sort of supernatural entity that you can worship. It’s not like science gives you better answers if you sacrifice more rams to it.

      “…please explain why public schools are ignoring basic biology that there are two genders male and female.”

      ::shrug:: For the simple reason that, in fact, the situation isn’t that neat or that clear-cut (or that simple, or that basic). They aren’t “ignoring basic biology”, they’re ignoring an ignorant oversimplification that doesn’t match the facts, and (have I mentioned this already) causes real and measurable harm to people who don’t deserve it.

      “Do your precious scientist have this incorrect?”

      They’re not the one who have this incorrect.

      “If so, then we’re supposed to believe them about lies like global warming?”

      Yep. Pretty much. See, the thing is, scientists could be wrong about global warming in general, and the role of human beings and certain human technologies in causing it. That’s not impossible. But the consensus scientific view on global warming still represents our best study and understanding of the situation. If you want to bet against that… eh. Well, that makes you kind of a problem for the rest of us, but I can’t really stop you. But this is one of those situations where Pascal’s Wager actually deserves some credit. Specifically, either Global Warming does it exist, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t and we take steps against it anyway, we lose very little and gain a more pleasant environment with less pollution. If it does and we take steps against it, we achieve our salvation as a species. If doesn’t exist and we don’t take steps, it makes very little difference; but if it does exist and we don’t take steps, we’re setting ourselves and our children up for a progressively more unpleasant future. Wager, then, without hesitation that it does exist and we should take steps against it.

      “I went to public school all through Elementary and high school and college.”

      Then you should understand the difference between a popular theory and a scientific theory. What, were you cutting classes the whole time?

      “Public education has no interest and teaching the children of this nation. Public educations only goal is to indoctrinate our kids with social justice propaganda.”

      …Which, on the basis of that same bit of the Book of Matthew that I quoted earlier, really ought to be the Church’s job. Also, not incidentally, that hasn’t been my experience with public education at all, at least not so far. They seem to spend most of their time working with students on reading, writing, math, science, and history, and maybe a bit of art and music if they can find time. Honestly, if they don’t get it together, we’re going to have to kick them out of the Secret Liberal Cabal.

      “Public education only interested in rewriting American history to fit today’s liberal Progressive agenda.”

      Excuse me? I’m from Texas. I’m living in Texas. And let me tell you, the people interested in rewriting history here? They’re not liberal. The Texas State Board of Education is the sort of group that tends to get deeply worried about the study of polynomials in our high schools, because they might pose a threat to traditional marriage.

      “You speak of accreditation. As if the federal government which is corrupt in all forms has any idea what constitutes being certified or accredited.”

      Actually, they do. And they tend to lay out the requirements in fairly clear terms. I’m not sure what corruption has to do with it, or why you appear to think homeschoolers or unaccredited schools would be free of corruption if it’s so completely overrun the federal gu’mint.

      “I know many a home school child and their education,knowledge,logic and reasoning is superior in almost every situation compared to a publicly educated child.”

      …And I know many formerly home-schooled children have repudiated the teaching methods, lack of valid information, and wholly insufficient overall education that they received. Several of them have had to do an awful lot of remedial learning just to be able to operate in the real world. And I’m talking about things like high-school level math, science, and history here, not high-end or specialized areas of study.

      “If you don’t like Christians or the church let them live their lives…”

      We do.

      “…quit looking for fights…”

      Hey, you’re the one who came here.

      “…they have the freedom to practice and educate as they see fit.”

      They do. Generally, I think that’s a good thing. But people have the right and the freedom to seek medical attention as they see fit, too, at least for the most part. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to point out the snake-oil salesmen.

      “This not Russia yet, but Progressive liberals like yourself sure are doing everything they can to get us there.”

      Ah, like requiring everyone to have their ID on hand so they can prove that they’re loyal citizens? No, wait, that was Republicans. Oh! Like reducing the number of polling places and trimming their hours of operation, so people wouldn’t be able to vote? No, wait, that was Republicans, too. Oh, I know! Like pushing for massive, intrusive government monitoring to make sure that nobody goes into an unacceptable bathroom! Ah… No, nope. That’s the Party Of Small Government, too. Okay, I give up. What all are we doing to convert the United States into Soviet Russia circa 1985? I forgot, and I can’t find my Progressive Liberal Marching Orders right now — I think the kids hid them under the couch or something.

      Are you really sure you’re not a Poe?

      • Avatar

        Excellent reply Michael. I’d have done a reply to Derek but you’ve done so much better. He throws in so many of the standard tropes, stupid and so easy to debunk, that I agree he may well be a Poe.

      • Avatar

        Michael, your comment was left many years ago now so I’m unsure if you will see this reply but I wanted to say thank you for your well educated and written response. It gives me some hope for this world when I see comments like yours, I’m glad there are people out there like you who speak passionately yet still composed in an educational and constructive way. Thank you for standing up for the LGBTQ+ community and for those who can’t always stand up for themselves, it is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your voice and for standing up for what (I believe) is right, I wish you all the best in life!

  10. Avatar

    This post was good, but it misses the the short lives of some of these schools, especially for the IFB schools that started outside the Bible belt. In my case, the private IFB school that gave me a high school diploma self-destructed a decade later, and I was their first salutatorian. The school where I matriculated from junior high is now defunct. The ACE school that I attended sophomore year of high school is also defunct, though the church that ran it is still going. All of these schools were in Southern California. From doing some research, I have found that the average life of a non-Bible belt school is about 25 years.

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Bruce Gerencser