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Christian School Defies Court Rule, Is Still Operating

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Though its pastor is in jail and it faces the threat of further legal proceedings, the Faith Christian Baptist School in Louisville, Neb., apparently remains open.

A spokesman for the school said last week, "Our religious classes are still operating."

Ronald D. Moravec, the Cass County attorney who filed the most recent complaints against the school, said, "If we determine that the school is still being conducted, we will consider legal action against the school and possibly the parents."

The Rev. Everett Sileven, pastor of the Faith Baptist Church and director of the Faith Christian School, was sentenced last month to four months in jail for operating his school despite previous court orders to close it.

A state court has said the school could not operate until it gained state accreditation and hired certified teachers.

Mr. Sileven maintains that the school is part of his church's ministry and that the state has no right to regulate it.

The minister founded the school more than four years ago, but was ordered to close it last winter when the state's supreme court ruled that he was in violaton of state teacher-certification laws. Teachers in the school were not certified by the state.

'Substantial Federal Question'

Mr. Sileven's lawyers petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but the Court declined to do so last October, on the grounds that the case lacked a "substantial federal question."

The Faith Christian School was subsequently closed--a move that brought the Moral Majority leader, Jerry Falwell, to the town to film a rally in support of the school.

But in early January, Mr. Sileven reopened the school and Mr. Moravec took the case back to district court. On Feb. 18th, the court sent Mr. Sileven to jail for contempt of court.

A bill awaiting first debate on the floor of the Nebraska legislature would partially relax state control over schools like Mr. Sileven's, but not as much as officials of the Christian schools want.

But the bill was recently amended to be more favorable toward them.

The current version would allow Christian schools to apply for waivers of state teacher-certification requirements providing that they establish a "lay board" of parents who would be responsible for setting the school's own minimum standards for teachers.

Schools will also have to file information about attendance, safety, and fire inspection.

An earlier version prepared by the legislature's education committee would have required schools to comply with state curriculum requirements, and to be affiliated with a "recognized" church that had been established in the state 10 years or more. The state's attorney general, after reviewing this version, said the term "recognized" church was ambiguous and that the 10-year requirement was unconstitutional.

Two state senators who support the Christian schools subsequently amended the bill again. The word "recognized" was changed to "established," the 10-year establishment clause deleted, and the waiver from curriculum rules found in the original bill was reinserted.

A spokesman for the legislative education committee predicted that passage of the bill in its current form is "doubtful," because of the change regarding the curriculum rules.

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