Many have been awaiting 1984 with some degree of trepidation. A novel was written a number of years ago about this date. It was a story of a nation under total domination by government (Big Brother). The story itself reminded one even of the account found inRevelation 13: the two beasts which arose, from land and sea to dominate all creatures. There are those today who debate whether this version of 1984 is really here. Some indications of what 1984 brings are pointed out in Perspectives in Covenant Education. The editor, Miss Agatha Lubbers, points out that new government laws require church and school to withhold social security taxes from teachers’ and ministers’ salaries. The church or school are required to withhold 6.7% of the employee’s salary, and must in addition, pay 7% of the employee’s salary. There are those who contend, with some degree of justification, that the very people who insist on separation of church and state in many areas, still insist that the church (school) collect the taxes for the state.
The same publication quotes a more disturbing development from the Religious Liberty Amendment. I quote part of that quotation:
U.S. District Court Judge George Hart ruled July 8 in Washington, D.C. that the Internal Revenue Service must impose racial rules on Christian Schools. At the present time, his order applies only to the private and religious schools in Mississippi because of a private school racial discrimination case originating there in 1969. Obviously, a U.S. federal court judge cannot establish a federal court ruling that applies to one state only. His decree for Mississippi will, in short order, become the law in every state. Judge Hart has ordered the IRS to impose stiff affirmative action guidelines on Christian schools that have come into existence or have increased in their student enrollments from the time the public schools began racial desegregation—a time frame that may be different in each area of the country. Judge Hart’s affirmative action guidelines would generally not apply to those Christian schools established prior to the mid-fifties which have not increased in enrollment since that time—a rare Christian school indeed. Judge Hart has, in effect, decreed that all Christian schools that have come into existence since public school desegregation are presumed “guilty” of racial discrimination. The “guilty” Christian school may have a clear non-racial discrimination policy but this alone is not adequate. The new affirmative action guidelines will establish a government formula for racially balancing the student body, the faculty, the school board and/or church board. Failure to comply will mean the loss of tax exemption. Contributions will no longer be tax-deductible. If the school is under corporate auspices of a church (80% of our schools are church sponsored), the entire church will lose its tax-exemption. This is a very serious matter. It is also a serious matter for independent religious schools.
Judge Hart is ignoring the religious liberty implications in his ruling. The Green vs. Regan case as it is called, makes no distinction between private schools and religious ministry schools . . . .
If the above is strictly applied, it-means that we too lose tax exemption for our schools—and likely for our churches as well. To retain tax exemption under this ruling one would have to receive teachers, students, and board members (a certain proportion) who were not of Reformed confession—as long as they were black. One might even have to pay their tuition in order to entice these to come: part of the “stiff affirmative action” demanded. While we have never, to the best of my knowledge, refused students, teachers, or board members on the basis of color, we are emphatically discriminatory with respect to religion—and, after all, what else would one expect of a church or Christian school? To deny one the right to maintain religious convictions in church or school when it comes to a “desegregation” of races, would be a horrible restriction of one’s religious freedom in this country.
The above might mean the loss of tax-exemption if one maintains principle. But the attack against Christian schools has come from another angle as well. Perhaps the attack is simply instigated by an overly zealous state bureaucrat (perhaps not), yet it indicates what may well shortly come upon all Christian schools and churches. This is not simply a question of tax-exemption, but of obeying the laws—or being shut down, fined, or imprisoned. The Grand Rapids (MI) Baptist Academy recently (Nov. 28, 1983) sent a letter to its supporters in which it stated:
Will you please pray for Baptist Academy? I mean earnestly pray!
Currently, the Academy is being challenged by the Michigan Civil Rights Department—initiated by the A.C.L.U., over “illegal” questions on our employment applications.
We have been ordered to remove from our application forms all questions regarding Christian experience and Christian standards.
It is now illegal, they say, for us to use “religion” as a qualification of employment. Technically, we may neither solicit information on an application form, nor may we legally ask those questions in an interview. . . .
. . . I am asking every one of our 5,300 friends who will be receiving this letter to join with me in earnest prayer for God’s wisdom and direction.
Our board will be prayerfully and carefully charting the course that we believe God would have us take in the near future.
I am sure you will agree with me that when the A.C.L.U. or the Civil Rights Department begins to encroach upon our philosophy, the very reason for our existence is being threatened! . . . .
I wrote to the Baptist Academy for further information. They sent a copy of the letter they received from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. In part, the letter stated:
I have recently reviewed your Employment Application. There are several questions which are unlawful under Michigan Law and must be removed. Specifically, they are all inquiries into a person’s marital status: Item II on your application entitled “Christian Experience” as well as “Employee-Board Standard of Excellence for Grand Rapids Baptist Academy.”
Further you need to eliminate inquiry into an applicant’s military service record and ask if a person has had experience in the Armed Forces of the United States or in a State Militia or whether they have served a particular branch of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, etc.
Please submit a revised copy of your application to me by July 25, 1983 . . . .
In a personal letter which accompanied the information, the writer stated:
Finally, I would like to add that at this time we are not crusading for a letter writing campaign to our legislators. We are simply asking God to intervene for us at this time by either causing the men to back down or by giving us direction as to what court action we should be taking. I am grateful to God for a Christian attorney who is of reputable character who has offered to defend us free of charge, all the way to the Supreme Court if need be. . . .
So—what is 1984 to bring? Are we ready to face the financial consequences of maintaining principle over against government restrictions? Will we be able to bear the financial burden of loss of tax exemption? Will some of us be fined or imprisoned for not following the directions of “Civil Rights Commissions”? 1984 will be a challenging year—and by the grace of our God, we will stand in the face of all opposition.
Troubles in Canada too
Not only does 1984 mark possible important developments in this land, but in Canada too the Christian schools face their problems. In British Columbia, where Christian schools are funded in part by the government, the government is placing added and objectionable restrictions on the schools. Calvinist Contact, Nov. 11, 1983, writes:
The Society of Christian Schools has taken a firm stand on the matter of government exams for grade 12s.
In response to the insistence by the provincial government that all grade 12s must write government examinations next June the society has begun to explain to its constituent schools why it is that Christian schools need to hold on to their freedom to determine their own curriculum. It has said to the Minister of Education, Mr. Heinrich, that it would be unfair to ask their students to write the government exams since their programs differ from public school programs.
Mr. Harro Van Brummelen, Curriculum Coordinator of the BC Christian schools, writes in The Linh that trying to compare how Christian schools fare in public exams is like trying to judge a pear on how closely it resembles an apple. “History has shown, especially in The Netherlands, that writing government exams erodes the uniqueness of Christian schools,” he writes.
“If the government lays the track, the Christian school “train” can only follow its direction. . . .”
. . . If the matter cannot be resolved, and Christian schools do not have their students write the public exams, the schools may be reclassified by the government as group 1 schools at the grade 12 or possibly also grade 11 level. That means they have lost their funding at these levels and the family tuition may rise by $300.
It is just another instance where government funding results in increased government control and direction.