Here is what you need to do to start a Christian school in Ohio.
Start a church
Start a Christian school as a ministry, an extension of the church
I kid you not, that’s it.
No rules, no regulations. No curriculum requirements. No teacher requirements. No notification requirements.
Ohio homeschooling regulations — and they are horrendously weak — are far more extensive than regulations for non-chartered religious schools.
Does this mean all non-chartered Ohio Christian schools are educationally deficient? Of course not, BUT many are.
Many Ohio non-chartered Christian schools are owned and operated by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. The schools are viewed as an oasis away from the world, a safe haven from the evil influences of humanists, secularists, atheists, socialists, Catholics, Democrats, and Southern Baptists.
By the way, about the first step: start a church? Starting a church is as easy as saying “we are a church” and you are the pastor. According to state and federal law, a church is tax-exempt simply because the church says it’s a church. Many people wrongly assume churches must file for 501(c)(3) status to be tax-exempt. 501(c)3) status is NOT required for tax exemption. It does confer a few extra benefits, such being allowed to send mail as a non-profit, but it is not needed for a church to be tax-exempt.
Now you know all you need to know to start a non-chartered Christian school in Ohio. Remember this the next time you drive by a First Fundamentalist Baptist Church in your community and their indoctrination centers for future generations for Fundamentalist children. Think of the children who are being taught by unqualified, uneducated teachers who believe the Bible is their primary textbook.Should Ohio churches be permitted to have schools? Yes, but surely we can all agree that having no regulations is NOT a good idea; that lack of regulation can and does cause harm to children.
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.
Recently, I found this essay among my late mother’s things. My grandmother had saved it with a cover sheet that said:
“Keep! (ObstacleChick)’s valedictorian speech at senior high graduation at (fundamentalist evangelical) Christian Academy, May, 1988”
It took me three weeks to summon enough courage to read this essay, as I knew it would be antithetical to what I believe today. I recall that my goal with this speech was to display my superior intellect before my peers and their parents and to present something that would be approved by faculty. These are my words as a Christian-school educated student (grades 5-12) who used education as a means to gain admittance into a top secular university. I believed these words at the time, and I considered myself superior to the vast majority of my peers whom I considered babies drinking the pablum of popular culture. While today I cringe at my parroting of the culture war indoctrination of my church and school, I am starkly aware of what was missing. Can you see it? This was a speech that I was required to submit to the English teacher and school administration for approval, and it was returned to me with no edits. Please feel free to comment. I’m just going to sit over here and cringe a little more at the 18-year-old I was trained to be 31 years ago.
It is often stated that society changes but people do not. This statement is true in the sense that the inner qualities of man remain the same from generation to generation. However, this statement should be expanded to include the fact that society, created by previous generations, affects those who live within it. Although it is difficult to characterize an entire generation, it is evident that young people, as influenced by society, are becoming increasingly insecure and pessimistic, and unless this trend is reversed, the future will not be very promising.
One reason for the condition of young people is the breakdown of the family unit. The parents of a child are to be responsible for nurturing their child so that he is able to become the best that he can be mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. Parents are also a source of security and encouragement for a child. It is also apparent that parents serve as role models for their children; since children, especially very young ones, are so inexperienced in life, they naturally imitate their parents, or the people to whom they are closest. Therefore, it is evident that parents play a very important role in the rearing of a child.
Unfortunately, many children do not have both parents, and in some cases, if both parents are present, there is so much unrest and disunity in the family that the children are not given the proper nurturing they need. Many children experience the pain and uncertainty of being torn between two parents who proceed to separate or divorce. Often, children become mere objects of which each parent struggles to gain custody. In cases in which the parents remain together, there is either disunity between them, or the parents simply do not have the time nor the desire to give the children the nurturing and attention they need. Therefore, the children become psychologically scarred and unprepared to fulfill their duties as members of society.
In addition to children who are products of broken families or families in which the parents do not fulfill their parental responsibilities, there are also children who desire to rebel against their parents and the values of their parents. There are many reasons for this desire to rebel, but the main reason seems to be the encouragement of the media and peers. The media present a certain image of what is and is not acceptable in order to be the “average” teenager. This standard invariably includes the characteristic of rebellion which often naturally occurs as a child begins to grow into adulthood and yearns for independence from parental authority. Since young people fear the insecurity of individuality — in other words, nonconformity to the “acceptable norm” — they eagerly imitate any image they see that offers an opportunity to “fit in” with what is acceptable to their peers, who can be cruelly intolerant of anyone who does not conform.
Today’s society is permeated with young people who are products of their inadequate family lives or their desire to rebel. In both cases, these children seek attention which they do not receive or do not accept from home. Therefore, they naturally seek it elsewhere. Unfortunately, they seek it from a world containing too many problems to deal effectively with those of neglected or rebellious young people whose unguided and uncontrolled presence only contributes to the growing problems of society.
Another reason for the condition of young people is the effects of society upon them. The world offers many deceptively appealing yet ultimately harmful attractions for which these young people, seeking security and a sense of well-being, eagerly grasp. These attractions assume many forms, a few of which are rock music, premarital sex, and drug and alcohol usage. All of these enticements, perhaps with the exception of rock music, previously were primarily presented to adults but are now forced upon adolescents who are not prepared to handle these harmful attractions. As a result, young people participating in these activities are injured mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically.
Because it is the attraction in which most young people openly participate without a great deal of parental interference, one must first examine rock music. Many believe that this music is harmless, merely a characteristic phase through which the majority of youths pass on the way to adulthood. It is viewed as a trend that has benignly existed for the past thirty years and will probably continue as a part of being a youth. Upon closer examination, one is able to realize the adverse effects this music has upon the bodies, minds, and emotions of youths.
Music is an important part of the lives of most people. It is used as a means through which to express emotion or even to produce a specific emotion. Music is also a means by which people celebrate worship. Allan Bloom in his work The Closing of the American Mind defines music as such:
“Plato’s teaching about music is, put simply, that rhythm and melody, accompanied by dance, are the barbarous expression of the soul. Barbarous, not animal. Music is the medium of the human soul in its most ecstatic condition of wonder and terror….Music is the soul’s primitive and primary speech (p. 71).”
Therefore, it is evident that music is an important device through which man is able to express himself.
Since rock music is not just one specific type of music but is characterized by various forms and names, it is difficult to specifically define. However, its lyrics primarily contain three major themes — sex, hate, and a hypocritical version of brotherly love (p. 74). Its rhythm, as young people are aware, has the beat of sexual intercourse (p. 73). Because one naturally responds physically and emotionally to the rhythms and lyrics of music, young people listening to rock music begin to unconsciously respond to its presentation of uncontrolled and misrepresented sex. Through rock music, young people are made aware of subjects which they are too immature to fully understand and experience. Therefore, they view a normal part of life in a perverted and immature manner.
Rock music exalts premarital (and extramarital) sex as well as drug and alcohol use as being socially acceptable and normal. As a result, many young people are led to believe that in order to be accepted as “normal” as presented by the entertainment industry, they must participate in one or more of these activities. This participation, in addition to being a way to gain security, is also a form of rebellion against authority. Therefore, one may conclude that rock music is not as harmless as many believe but is really an agent encouraging young people to rebel against authority by participating in activities which are traditionally unacceptable.
The activity probably most advocated by the media — movies and television — is premarital sex. Many young people view the lack of participation in this activity as a social stigma or, in other words, a lack of peer acceptance. Unfortunately, this uncontrolled behavior has produced many adverse consequences such as sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies. Many young people are physically and/or psychologically injured as a result of this exploration into an activity with which they are unable to cope.
Another activity in which many youths participate is alcohol or drug usage. One reason some young people participate in this is in order to escape problems which they cannot or will not attempt to resolve. The resulting “high” they obtain after using these substances can offer a feeling of well-being which they do not know how to receive any other way. A greater number of youths use these substances to gain peer acceptance; if they refuse to use drugs or alcohol, they are often treated as social outcasts. In order to avoid this isolation, many young people give in. Unfortunately, some young people die or are permanently scarred as a result of their experimentation with these substances.
Up to this point, one can see that many young people participate in ultimately harmful activities in order to deal with their insecurities. Of course, it is natural for young people to possess a certain amount of insecurity, for they are struggling with the effects of maturing into a unique individual. However, it seems that young people of this generation possess insecurity to a greater degree than preceding generations. This increase is basically due to the effects of modern society upon young people.
Modern society is permeated with many problems. The family unit, which is the core of society, is rapidly deteriorating. There is friction between groups of people within society. Many baffling, communicable, and incurable diseases exist. The world economy is highly uncertain and unstable. Nations are unable or unwilling to coexist peaceably. The list of social, economic, and political problems continues indefinitely.
Often, when young people are made aware of the various problems within society, they become pessimistic, realizing that these problems cannot be easily solved. They realize that they will be presented a world that is so tainted with problems and will be expected to resolve them, or at least to prevent them from becoming worse. One cannot but wonder how these young people, as generally unprepared as they are presently, will be able to create a decent world within which people can exist relatively contentedly. Of course, as one can see, this lack of preparation is not entirely the fault of the young people, for it is difficult for young people to grow up successfully in this society, but unless this trend is reversed, the future cannot appear to be very promising or attractive.
The relationship between society and the members of society is a unique one. The state of society depends upon its members, and the members are influenced by the society in which they live. The state of the future of society depends upon the attitudes and preparation of young people to deal with the problems presented to them. However, when the young people are not adequately prepared, the future of society suffers. Therefore, one may conclude that because the young people of this generation are generally insecure, pessimistic, and inadequately prepared to take their place within society, the future will not be very promising unless this trend is reversed.
After reading an article that Ms. Pence had accepted the position, I went to the school’s website to find out more about the school before jumping to conclusions, and I found that it is very similar to the fundamentalist Christian school I attended in the 1980s. While I am not surprised that Ms. Pence would support such a school, and I believe she has a right to teach wherever she wishes, I also believe that she should not act surprised or offended when other people call her out on teaching at a school that promotes bigotry against LGBTQ people.
One of my friends from the fundamentalist Christian school came out as gay after he left the school. Fortunately, his parents were very supportive of him. He and I have stayed in touch through the years because I was one of the few former classmates who did not treat him like a pariah due to admonishments from writings of ancient, ignorant people.
I noticed my friend shared the story of Ms. Pence’s acceptance of the job at Immanuel Christian School on his social media page with the comment, “I went to a private Christian school. I wish I had come out during my time there to shake things up.” It made me sad to read his comment, knowing that he would have either been silenced or expelled. Knowing full well that my post would probably upset former teachers and classmates, I posted my own #ExposeChristianSchools story. I believe it is important that people from my post-evangelical life understand what these schools are and that they may actually know someone who attended one of those schools. Also, I felt it was important for people from my past and present to realize that people can change their views.
Several friends from my post-evangelical days thanked me for posting and sharing the story. None of them knew my background with regard to religious indoctrination. Many commenters were members of my husband’s family or were former coworkers. I am sure they were shocked to find out I was raised that way, especially as I no longer hold the bigoted views espoused by these types of schools. Only one of my former classmates commented, and she thanked me for posting and admitted that she did not think about these things while growing up, is currently sending her children to this type of school, and struggles with the legalism.
My father-in-law, who attended Catholic schools through grade school and undergraduate university, was concerned that I was judging all Christian schools, so we had a telephone conversation and cleared things up. My brother and my former mathematics teacher, however, were not pleased with my assessment. I had already decided that if any of my teachers saw my post, I would not feel bad, as they must be held accountable for their complicity in such a system regardless of whether they were active perpetrators of abuse. While my former mathematics teacher is a nice lady who is in her early 90s, she still holds unapologetically to the abusive fundamentalist evangelical beliefs that I wish to expose. I thanked her for her response, but she did not apologize for being part of the system and I did not offer absolution.
My brother, about whom I have written before, stated unequivocally that he cannot understand how we were brought up in the same system yet have such completely divergent world views. He and my former mathematics teacher then proceeded to orgasm over each other’s conversion stories and how Jesus has saved them from their depravity. I let them have their little orgasmic bonding on my post, hoping that previous commenters would read what sounds to outsiders like ridiculous ranting and raving in order to solidify the points that I was trying to make. I won’t bore you all with the details of their stories, but suffice it to say theirs are typical tales of “I was a sinner and Jesus totally saved me glory hallelujah amen praise Jesus.” Evangelicals really have no idea how ridiculous their “testimonies” sound to those outside the system.
In any case, my husband and I were concerned that my brother would cut us off as we have feared, given my brother’s increasing zealotry. This particular interchange led me to realize that my brother is too far gone to have a rational discussion about religion, and I have determined not to bring it up to him anymore. If he wishes to persist in his beliefs, he will need to follow his own journey. My pointing out scientific and historical flaws in his beliefs has no impact on his desire for faith in ridiculous (and harmful) views. I commented a few days later on one of his few non-religious posts, and we had a nice banter back and forth, so he is not averse to banalities. I think he understands that my children and I are the only blood relatives with whom he has any type of relationship, and if he cuts us off, he will only have his wife’s family. They are definitely more Christian than we are, but even they do not seem to be participating in his hard-core fundamentalist zealotry. I don’t think he has any friends outside his Skype men’s prayer group.
In any case, I accomplished my goal of raising awareness about the abuses in fundamentalist Christian schools. And while I am not ready to be completely public about my atheism for fear of prompting my brother to sever ties, I will say that my name is Laura, and I #ExposeChristianSchools.
Please share your experiences with Christian schools in the comments. We would love to hear your stories.
I understand the biblical role of Immanuel Christian School is to partner with families to encourage students to be imitators of Christ. This necessarily involves the school’s understanding and belief regarding biblical morality and standards of conduct. I understand that the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission to an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student if the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home, the activities of a parent or guardian, or the activities of the student are counter to, or are in opposition to, the biblical lifestyle the school teaches. This includes, but is not limited to, contumacious behavior, divisive conduct, and participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity, or bi-sexual activity, promoting such practices, or being unable to support the moral principles of the school. (Lev. 20:13 and Romans 1:27). I acknowledge the importance of a family culture based on biblical principles and embrace biblical family values such as a healthy marriage between one man and one woman. My role as spiritual mentor to my children will be taken seriously.
As a parent of a student, one must sign an agreement that one does not even condone homosexual or bisexual activity upon threat of expulsion. Additionally, the school teaches creation mythology instead of evolution, and of course, the school teaches typical Evangelical doctrines regarding sin and salvation through grace, along with “the rapture” eschatology.
I attended a fundamentalist Christian school much like this in grades 5-12 (1981-1988). My mom and grandparents heard a rumor that students living in my district would be bused to a mostly-minority community, so they acted fast to enroll me in the private (almost completely white) Christian school. Entering the school, all students were subject to a gender-based dress code and a comprehensive code of conduct. Girls were to “appear as God made them — feminine” (yes, I distinctly remember that description from the student handbook). There were strict guidelines for skirt length and sleeve length, and when we entered 6th grade the female teachers taught us how to go through physical contortions in front of a mirror to determine whether our clothing would properly cover us if we bent over or reached over our heads. Girls’ dress code also allowed for pants/slacks/culottes to be worn to extracurricular activities such as ballgames (but we were never to wear jeans – somehow denim is fine in the form of skirt, dress, jumper, or jacket, but it transforms into pure evil if it is cut into the form of women’s pants). Boys’ dress code included strict guidelines for hair length including a diagram in the handbook and the requirement for a belt to be worn and shirt tucked in at all times. No one was allowed to wear anything with obscenities, racial slurs, or the American flag.
We had a strict code of conduct that allowed the school to suspend or expel students for activities outside the school. Students could be suspended or expelled for having sex, for smoking, for drinking alcohol, for profane language, and for playing rock music on school grounds. There was a year when anyone caught going to the roller-skating rink would be suspended. During my tenure at the school, three boys were expelled for attending a party that served alcohol. A girl overheard the boys talking about it and turned them in. Naturally, we were in a culture that encouraged us to report behavior of other students to the administrators. Additionally, two girls were expelled for getting pregnant. One would think that pro-lifers would commend the girls for giving birth to their babies, but for some reason the administration thought that the correct course of action was to expel the girls. I suppose they wanted to remove the quite-visible reminder that the girls had participated in sexual activity.
To be fair, I was never told that I could not excel academically or take a class because I was female. It was clear that females were not allowed to preach, but we had a female high school principal. However, there were other things that we learned about being female. First, of course, was the emphasis on the dress code as described previously. Girls were sent home from school if their skirts were too short, too tight, or if their shirt was “too revealing” in some way. When I was in 6th grade, our health and physical education teacher taught us that the “perfect female form” had the dimensions of equal measurements of bust and hips with waist measuring ten inches less. Homework required that we take our measurements, and the next day she asked girls to raise their hands who had the “perfect female form” measurements. Three girls raised their hands — we all knew they were liars, but I remember feeling like a loser because at age twelve I had nowhere near the “perfect female form.” My entire life, I never had those measurements, though I have always been fit and active except while pregnant and postpartum. Those measurement parameters and their association with the “perfect female form” have stuck in my mind my entire life though.
Another traumatizing moment at school was in preparation for our senior class trip to Florida. Girls were allowed to bring one-piece swimwear on the trip, but we were only allowed to bring pieces approved by female faculty. I will never forget having to put on my two one-piece swimsuits while my female teachers examined them to determine if they were modest enough. They approved both suits, wrote down their descriptions which would be available to the female chaperones, and they told me I looked good. There are few incidents in my life that were as mortifying as this. I do not know what the requirements were for boys’ swimwear.
Our school had a culture of pointing out misbehavior/sin. Among students, people would comment upon other students’ failings “in a spirit of love” but really, we all knew it was just an opportunity for people to judge others and to highlight things they didn’t like to other students. As teachers were the authorities and in charge of correcting misbehavior, they were allowed to point out misbehavior at any time. There was a lot of watching, observing, and judging going on. Faculty sometimes even tried to prevent dating situations from occurring. One of my friends was a PK — preacher’s kid — whose father was friends with the headmaster of the school. The headmaster did not approve of my friend’s boyfriend (also a student at the school), so he approached my friend’s father who broke up the relationship.
Yet there was, of course, rampant hypocrisy. Teachers as part of their employment contract were not allowed to attend movie theaters. It was explained that observing students would not know whether a teacher was entering or exiting a rated-R movie, so in order to protect the testimony of the teacher, the teacher could not attend the movie theater. However, all the young teachers had memberships to the local video store, and they openly discussed movies with students. I never understood how it was acceptable for the teacher to rent movies from the video store, as by the same reasoning that students would not know whether a teacher was attending a rated-R movie, how could we know whether the teacher was renting a pornographic film? Additionally, I always found it odd that two female students married teachers from the school and wondered if any dating was going on while the girls were students.
Students were told that we received the best academic education available, but I learned when I went to a top ranked secular university that this was not necessarily the case. (One could argue that my education was good enough to gain admission to a top ranked secular school.) Of course, as a fundamentalist Christian school whose statement of beliefs included inerrant, inspired, and literalist view of the Bible, evolution was not taught in science courses. Our science textbooks were from Bob Jones University Press, and they included some odd rebuttals of evolution. One of the main rebuttals was that radiocarbon dating was contaminated and inaccurate on the magnitude of millions of degrees of error. The curriculum taught that the earth was only 6,000-10,000 years old and that God had created the earth with the appearance of age. Fossils existed due to upheavals that occurred during (the story of) Noah’s Worldwide Flood. I remember the explanation that spontaneous generation of life does not occur because rotten meat that produced maggots and flies meant that flies laid eggs in the meat, not that the rotting meat generated flies; therefore, evolution is false. It’s a fair analysis that flies lay eggs in rotting meat, but it has nothing to do with spontaneous generation of life – it just means that ignorant people who thought that rotting meat gave rise to maggots and flies had no understanding of the reproduction and gestation of flies. As for mathematics, our course path was a year behind the honors track at public or private secular schools, so those of us who were “advanced” students were a year behind other top students. History courses were taught from a Christian inclination, and I do not remember much mention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or of the civil rights movement. Our foreign language curriculum was not very rigorous, and I was required to repeat basic French in college in order to fulfill the foreign language requirement. What the school considered Advanced Placement courses were not the true Advanced Placement courses one finds in other schools in which an AP exam is administered for which one can earn college credit. On the positive side, our writing skills were impeccable as the school focused on constructing proper paragraphs and essays. My college literature professor pulled me aside after our first composition and asked me if I was sandbagging his course because my writing skills were beyond the level of other students in the class. I told him I was not offered another option and explained I had attended a private Christian school. I think he felt sorry for me as he allowed me to take a leadership role in the class.
Many of my teachers were kind, compassionate people who were dedicated to educating students. However, most newer, younger teachers did not last long at the school due to the low pay and the heavy course load — each middle school and high school teacher was required to teach a minimum of four individual classes, each with a separate course prep. The shortest tenure I recall is 5 weeks; a couple of teachers lasted through the first half of the year; the majority quit after the first year. The teachers who made it past the first two years generally stayed for a long time. Male teachers were required to prepare and preach sermons on chapel days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) in addition to teaching courses. A few teachers coached sports or drove school buses in order to make a little extra money, and all had summer jobs. The teachers chose life in a Christian school whereas most of the students did not — our parents and guardians chose for us.
Stay tuned for more about #ExposeChristianSchools.
I thought I would kick this back up to the front page in the hope that some of you would see it and agree write a guest post about your Christian School experiences.. Please contact me if you are willing to do so.
Chris Stroop, an ex-evangelical, recently launched the #ExposeChristianSchools hashtag on Twitter in response to “Vice President Mike Pence and conservative commentators like David French lambasting liberals over legitimate criticism of Second Lady Karen Pence for choosing to teach art at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia—a K-8 school that explicitly discriminates against members of the LGBTQ community.” Needless to say, Stroop’s effort has caused a tornado-level shit-storm. You can read Stoop’s article on the fallout from #ExposeChristianSchools here.
ObstacleChick sent me a two-part guest post detailing her experiences attending an Evangelical Christian school. As I read her submission, I thought, maybe there are other readers who would like to share their Christian school experiences. If you would like to do so, please email me via the contact form. Anonymous submissions are fine, as are pseudonyms. I hope some of you will consider adding your voice to the discussion. I plan to write a series of posts detailing my experiences as a pastor who started an Evangelical Christian school. Several months ago, the local school superintendent and I were chit-chatting and he asked me, “so where did your children go to school?” I chuckled and responded, “well, that’s a long, convoluted story I will have to share with you some day when we have time.” I hope this series will provide a vehicle by which I can share my past experiences and readers can understand why I, today, oppose the anti-culture, anti-human beliefs and practices used by many, if not most, Evangelical Christian schools and home schoolers.
Stay tuned. I have lots to share, and I hope other readers of this blog will too. Your voice is important. I look forward to hearing from you.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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