My friend, Naked Jen, just moved here. She just discovered LDS Seminary, which is LDS religious training that takes place in the junior high and high schools here in Utah. Sadly, it wasn’t explained to her very well and the resulting misinformation has her thinking that her tax dollars will go to pay for religious training.
There was far more for me to say about this subject than would fit into a tiny little comment form, so I thought I’d write a blog entry about the subject.
Be calm. NO tax dollars are spent to teach the LDS classes. It is ENTIRELY separate. The LDS church pays the salary of the teachers. The LDS church has paid to buy land next to EVERY junior high and high school in Utah. You actually have to leave school grounds to go to seminary.
To take seminary classes, you have to sign up for “Released Time,” which means that the school system is releasing you for the length of the class. It’s very much like if you had a job and took “Work Release.” You don’t get any school credit for the time you go to seminary. It just shows up as a blank on your schedule AND report card.
If you aren’t Mormon, like I was when I went to school, you don’t take seminary. Of course, you’re welcome to take the seminary classes, even if you’re not Mormon. I did when I was in ninth grade. That year, we studied the Old Testament. If you follow the curriculum, you end up reading the entire Old Testament over the course of that year. I believe they cover the New Testament in tenth grade, and then The Book of Mormon and triplet the following two years. If you aren’t Mormon, you can even take seminary, slough it, and no one can get you in trouble. If you ARE Mormon, you’ll have to suffer the wrath of your parents if you slough seminary, but I guess that depends on your family.
If you aren’t Mormon, and you don’t take seminary, you have one extra class a year that you can do anything with. Since the system is set up so you can graduate, even if you take seminary, you can get extra credits by taking classes that aren’t required (like art or music or shop or whatever). So, Naked Jen, you got your wish. All those non-LDS children have a wonderful advantage and are able to use that extra time however they choose.
Now, as far as separation of church and state? No, there is NO separation of church and state here in Utah. There is an appearance of it, but in actuality, there is none. I know this will change and Utah will slowly become more secular, but it won’t happen in my lifetime. I understand that I will never see it come to pass and I have come to accept this negative aspect of Utah with all the good that the state has to offer.
All the good…
Like huge snow storms that cause whiteout conditions and close the canyon to Park City… Maybe I need to rethink this whole Utah thing… :)