This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Those who create advertising understand the adage that perception is reality. What people sense to be true is true, at least for them.
In Lindon, a new charter school - a public school that operates with taxpayer money - and a seminary operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are occupying the same building.
That doesn't technically violate the constitutional mandate that government not support or endorse any religion, since each organization separately leases its space. The Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy and the seminary don't even share an entrance. But the perception is there that the public school is simply too cozy with the LDS Church. And that makes a significant number of people, already sensitive to the church's influence in Utah, uncomfortable.
Given that precisely that perception is reality to so many, either the school or the church should look for other quarters.
Many students in Utah County - and elsewhere in Utah and other states - attend seminary classes in ninth through 12th grades on a released-time arrangement with public schools. LDS seminaries are located near the schools but not on school property.
That arrangement withstood a contentious court challenge in 1981. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that granting released time, and even allowing public-school credit for some seminary classes, are constitutional. The court also set sound conditions, including that seminary instruction must take place separately and receive no public funds.
The Lindon situation seems to fit those parameters. Still, we agree with Carol Lear, director of school law and legislation for the Utah Office of Education, that "it does matter that they are in the same building." Again, perception, not legality, is the problem.
Charter schools are a sort of hybrid. They are funded with public money and chartered by the state, but they are organized and run by private individuals, often parents, who must find a site for the school. They often focus on specific subjects or types of instruction; the Maeser Prep students study liberal arts using the Socratic method - but they cannot preach religion.
Still, many charter school organizers and certainly LDS seminary directors would recognize the admonition of St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians, 5:22: "Abstain from all appearance of evil." There is no evil in sharing a building, but it's best to avoid the appearance.