Q. Are there sample letters for pastors or friends to go with a religious exemption letter?
A. The law does not require parents to include additional letters from pastors or friends supporting their beliefs; however, letters of support may be helpful in a school board’s decision-making process. HEAV does not have sample letters for pastors or friends regarding the recognition of a parent’s religious exemption, but we can provide some background information on the purpose of the additional letters.
If parents decide to include letters from pastors or friends with the information they send to the school board, they should make sure the letters include information that will assist the school board in recognizing their sincerely held religious beliefs. The letters should support the parents’ statement that they are conscientiously opposed to attendance at school because of sincere religious training or genuine religious beliefs.
The pastor is not required by law to publicly support home education for himself or his congregation in order to write a letter. Neither are friends required to have the same beliefs as the parents. The purpose of supporting letters is to verify that the parents’ reasons against sending their children to school are based on “bona fide” or genuine religious convictions.
The person writing the letter could state how long he has known the family, that he is writing to verify the religious beliefs of the family, and that their beliefs are genuine or sincere. As their spiritual leader or friend, he could also state that the family’s lifestyle is consistent with their beliefs. He could also confirm that their beliefs are religious in nature and not based on a philosophy, a personal moral code, or political motivation.
Supporting documents may make it easier for a school board to make a decision in compliance with the religious exemption statute; however, as stated earlier, they are not required by law.