ACLU of Ohio says state can't "inject religious criteria" into Gov. Kasich's student mentoring program

COLUMBUS, Ohio, The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is researching possible legal action over a requirement for schools to have religious partners to be part of Gov. John Kasich's $10 million student mentoring program.

Christine Link, ACLU of Ohio executive director, said she is troubled that the new "Community Connectors" program requires that a "house of worship" or "faith-based" organization join with a business and a school before the school can qualify for grants from the program.

As The Plain Dealer reported last Friday, other non-profit organizations that want to mentor students can participate, but only if a business and a religious group are also in the partnership with the school. But the other non-profits are not eligible if no religious group is included.

In a letter this week to Kasich and State Superintendent Richard Ross, ACLU officials say they are "troubled" that the state has "injected religious criteria" into the program and that the requirement may be unconstitutional. Link said the government and schools can have religious groups work with students, just with strong limits, but not give them preferences or include them at the exclusion of other groups.

"The government is not supposed to prefer religion over non religion," said Link.

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