School district officials in a central Virginia county have decided to throw out a policy forcing homeschooling parents and children to justify their religious beliefs to the government.
The school board at Goochland County Public Schools voted on Tuesday night to reverse a policy that had required children ages 14 and older to provide statements concerning their religious beliefs to the board in order to qualify for religious exemption to public education.
The original policy read, "The School Board reserves the right to schedule a meeting with the parent(s) and, in the case of a student age 14 or older, with the student. The parent of a student younger than age 14 may choose to have his or her child attend the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is for the School Board to determine whether the request for exemption is based upon a conscientious opposition to attendance at a public school or at a private, denominational, or parochial school due to bona fide religious training or beliefs. Such meeting will be conducted in a closed meeting of the School Board."
Douglas Pruiett and his wife, who homeschool their seven children, were among those affected by the school board's demands.
"The policy provided the school board the right to call the child before them (and I call it interrogation) to defend those beliefs so they could determine whether indeed the child and the parents still held bona fide religious beliefs to qualify for the exemption," Pruiett told Fox News contributor Todd Starnes.
According to CBS affiliate WTVR, on Tuesday, hundreds of angry homeschooling parents attended a school board meeting to voice their concerns regarding the policy.
"To demand a child at 14 to attest to their religious beliefs, while they are still in training and have not come to firm religious beliefs, is unfair to the child and certainly usurps the parents authority," said one parent, according to WDBJ.
The Home School Legal Defense Association also weighed in, calling the Goochland policy "illegal."
"The Virginia religious exemption statute gives families a right to an exemption from school attendance based on the religious training the parents are providing the child - regardless of what the child believes. The Goochland policy violates this right," the HSLDA argued, according to EAGnews.org.
After listening to many people's concerns, the board voted to repeal the policy and suspend any religious exemption letters that were sent to other families.
"The board acted honorably to repeal this thing," Prueitt said.
"We are Christians and we homeschool our children so that we can instill in them Christian values - from an educational standpoint so that they will acknowledge God in every discipline of life," he added. "You're not going to find that in public schools."