By Kent Larsen
LDS Seminary Stuck; Higley High Off Limits
HIGLEY, ARIZONA -- Students attending LDS seminary classes on released time
from Higley High School are stuck on busses until a new seminary building
can be completed. The Church's play to lease space in the high school fell
through Tuesday when County Attorney Rick Romley ruled that leasing a
classroom to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints violated a
state law against on-campus religious instruction during school hours.
Because the Church didn't have space for the 200 seminary students attending
Highley High School, the Church sought to lease classroom space in an unused
building on the Higley High campus from the school board a few weeks ago. On
August 21st the board agreed, but, fearing that the agreement might violate
the law or conflict with the constitutional separation of church and state,
the board made the agreement contingent on the approval of the Maricopa
County Attorney's ruling that it was legal.
But County Attorney Romley's ruling didn't come by the time classes started,
leaving the 200 students without meeting space nearby. The Church then
started bussing the students to a nearby charter school, and now to an LDS
chapel. Now that Romley's ruling prohibited the lease, the Church will have
to make the bussing arrangement permanent, at least until a local seminary
building, now under construction, can be completed.
"It's over. [The church] asked us for a favor, and we said we'd consider it
based on the Attorney's Office interpretation of the law. The opinion
clearly states this wouldn't be legal," said board president Bruce Ericson.
The school superintendent, Larry Likes, said he will inform the Church in
writing of the decision. But parents and local officials are now worried
about the safety of the students, who now must make an additional bus trip
each day to attend seminary classes.
Higley schools advised against on-campus religion classes
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 5Sep01 D1
By Mel Melendez: The Arizona Republic
Classroom Lease to LDS Church on Hold