Minister Reports For 30-Day Jail Stay
MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (AP) _ A fundamentalist minister walked into jail Saturday to serve 30 days for educating his daughter without state approval, after telling supporters his children’s education was worth imprisonment.
″The issue is very, very much important to us as church people, as Christians,″ said the Rev. T.N. Taylor before leaving home to address supporters at the Henry County courthouse. ″We need to have our rights protected.″
″We don’t believe that certification makes a child get a good education,″ Taylor said. ″All we see it does is give state control over the children.″
About 350 people sang ″Amazing Grace″ as Taylor and his family walked about 150 yards to the jail. Some carried hand-lettered signs reading ″My Children Belong to God, Not the State″ and ″Mommy, What Does the First Amendment Really Mean?″
Taylor, pastor of Mount Pleasant’s First Assembly of God Church, taught his children at the Blue Bird Christian Academy, which he opened in 1983.
Taylor, who is not certified by the state, teaches four children, including his son Nicholas, 8, and daughter Stephanie, 13, in the one-room school.
In 1984, he and his wife, Sharon, were convicted of failing to have their children taught according to state standards, which require children to attend schools staffed with state-certified teachers.
They were given suspended sentences for the misdemeanor violation of the compulsory education law, carrying a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and a $100 fine.
A ruling in Henry County Magistrate Court last week said the Taylors violated the terms of a suspended 30-day sentence by returning their daughter Stephanie to the academy last fall.
She had attended a Christian school in Burlington, which has a state- certifie d teacher, for two years after her parents were convicted.
″You’re standing here in Iowa for an issue that is vitally important to all parents in America,″ Daniel Loomis, an attorney for the Christian Law Association, told the crowd.
Guy Rodgers, a lobbyist for home education, has 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.
Taylor’s wife will begin serving her 30-day sentence once her husband completes his.
Taylor is the first Christian to to go to jail for violating the compulsory eduation law since 1980, Rodgers said.
The pastor said he was prepared for his stay in jail. ″I’m going to spend a lot of time reading my Bible and praying, obviously,″ he said.