Pastor’s Jailing Fuels Fundamentalist Education Movement
MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (AP) _ Fundamentalist Christians gathered to rally today in support of the Rev. T.N. Taylor, who was to begin serving a 30-day jail sentence for violating the state’s compulsory education law.
Organizers said the rally in this southeast Iowa city had a larger purpose: to press the Legislature to ease the state’s education restrictons.
″I think that the way things are moving, the Legislature is going to have to address the situation this year,″ said Guy Rodgers, a legislative lobbyist representing Iowans who want the right to legally educate their children at home or in church-affiliated schools using teachers not certified by the state.
Taylor was to start his 30 days in the Henry County jail today for violating the terms of his probation on a 1984 conviction for violating the state’s compulsory education law.
Taylor and his wife were convicted of failing to have their children taught according to state standards. Taylor, pastor of the First Assembly of God Church in Mount Pleasant, has taught his children at the Blue Bird Christian Academy, which he opened in the fall of 1983.
Taylor is the first fundamentalist to go to jail in Iowa for violating the compulsory education law since a Mason City woman was jailed in 1980, said Rodgers, who added that three other cases are pending that could result in jail sentences.
Taylor’s wife also faces a 30-day jail sentence but has been allowed to serve her term after her husband is released.
The Taylors were given 30-day suspended jail terms in May 1984. In January 1985 the judge modified the sentence to two years’ probation.
The Taylors mistakenly thought the probation period was retroactive to the date of their original conviction, and reopened their school in the fall of 1986 under the mistake assumption their probation had ended, Rodgers said. But the judge’s order had called for the probation period to extend through the year, so the Taylors were convicted in December 1986 of violating their probation terms.
He estimated that up to 2,500 families teach their children at home in defiance of state law and that about 40 church schools operate without state certification.
Rodgers said fundamentalist Christians do not plan to let the jailings go unnoticed by the Legislature, which has rebuffed past attempts to ease state education requirements for the fundamentalists.
″The law is vague, it’s arbitrary and it needs to be changed,″ Rodgers said at a news conference in Des Moines on Friday. ″If we could get a trial period ... the state would see that we are people who are concerned about the education of our children.″
Rodgers said members of the Iowa Senate are sympathetic with the fundamentalists’ stand, but House leaders have refused to move on the issue.