EDITOR'S NOTE: Patch has reached out to Cherokee Christian Schools and is waiting to hear back from the administration.
Some scholarship money generated through a Georgia tax credit program has been used at religious schools that ban gay, lesbian and bisexual students, according to a report released late last month.
One school in the report from the Southern Education Foundation, an Atlanta education policy group, is in Woodstock.
At Cherokee Christian Schools, the Parent/Student Handbook for the 2012-13 school year states:
"In accordance with the Statement of Faith and in recognition of Biblical principles, no “immoral act” or “identifying statements” concerning fornication, adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, or pornography, will be tolerated," the policy states. "Such behavior will constitute grounds for expulsion."
The Southern Education Foundation does not take issue with the policies of schools such as Cherokee Christian School. They have a constitutional right to believe whatever they want to believe and to operate their private affairs in accordance with those beliefs, the foundation said.
But schools that "exclude, condemn, and demonize students for who they are and who they accept in their lives" should not receive public funds, the foundation wrote in its report. "Tax dollars should go to schools that educate all students. That is the promise and virtue of our democracy."
Legislators in 2008 established a tax credit program to allow individual and corporate taxpayers to contribute to qualified student scholarship organizations and receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against their Georgia income tax liabilities. SSOs provide the funds to private schools for all or part of a student’s tuition.
While the amounts awarded to each school are unknown, more than $170 million in taxpayer funds have been set aside to cover the tuition costs of students in private schools during the last four years.
And the Southern Education Foundation knows of at least 115 private schools in the tax credit scholarship program that have severe anti-gay policies or belong to state and national private school associations that promote anti-gay policies, according to the report.
"Altogether, as much as one-third of all private schools participating in Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program may be governed by the schools’ explicit anti-gay policies or their church’s anti-gay statements of faith," according to the report.
And that count, according to the report, is likely an understatement.
Click here to read the full report from the Southern Education Foundation. It is also attached to this article as a PDF.