Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

Refers specifically to conservative Protestant evangelical and fundamentalist schools, and generally does not include Catholic parochial schools or those sponsored by mainline Protestant denominations. Tremendous growth has occurred in the "Christian School Movement" since the late 1970s.

Although some of the original impetus for the earliest schools was to avoid federally mandated racial integration, by the late 1980s significant racial integration was common. Moreover, by that time, most of the schools had policies specifically forbidding discrimination. In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled in Bob Jones University v. U.S . that the Internal Revenue Service could revoke the tax-exempt status of any private religious school engaged in discriminatory practices.

The Christian School Movement was one catalyst for the rise of the New Christian Right, as parents organized to protect their schools' autonomy from federal and state regulation. The National Christian Action Coalition—the first identifiable Christian-right lobby—organized on that basis. Parents also have fought regulations dealing with zoning and general hiring practices.

Given that regulation of private schools is a state prerogative, disparities exist in the level of control. The more restrictive states set curricular guidelines and accreditation standards and require teacher certification, going so far as jailing parents who send their children to schools violating those guidelines; other states grant the schools virtual autonomy, believing that education is a protected religious activity. Many schools not subject to state regulation voluntarily submit to nongovernmental accreditation from organizations such as the Association for Christian Schools International.

Christian Schools vary widely in their conservatism. Some schools have a distinctly fundamentalist orientation, replete with strict dress codes, while others are more relaxed. In contrast, the small number of publishers producing the curricula for a cross section of schools gives them an underlying similarity.

Julie Ingersoll and Matthew C. Moen


J. Ingersoll, Train Up a Child , Master's thesis, George Washington University, 1990

A. Peshkin, God's Choice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990)

S. Rose, Keeping Them Out of the Hands of Satan (New York: Routledge, 1988)

M. B. Wagner, God's Schools (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990).

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