HSLDA’s letter
RE: NCAA Policy on Religious Content of Secular Courses

January 2002

Diane Dickman
Director of Membership Services
PO 6222
Indianapolis, IN 46206

RE: NCAA Policy on Religious Content of Secular Courses

Dear Ms. Dickman

By way of introduction, the Home School Legal Defense Association is a nationwide membership organization of more than 70,000 home schooling families. Our association is dedicated to preserving the fundamental rights of parents to direct the education of their own children.

A student in one of our member families was recently denied an initial eligibility waiver due to a determination that several of the home school courses she took were too religious to count for NCAA's core curriculum requirements. We want to make sure we understand your existing policy, which could affect a large number of our religiously-motivated member families.

In a telephone conversation with NCAA staff on January 3, 2002, I understood the following to be the current NCAA policy:

  • Theology and religious studies courses may be used for general humanities credits if and only if those courses are taught from a "non-doctrinal" perspective.

  • In general, courses that contain more than 25% religious content cannot be counted toward the core curriculum requirements.

  • The NCAA reviews courses such as "Creation Science" to determine whether they can be counted as science for the core curriculum requirements.

    I could not tell whether all courses are reviewed for religious content, or only those with overtly religious titles. It also was not clear whether the special "non-doctrinal" rule only applies to theology and religious studies courses, or whether it applies to every discipline.

    We recognize your need to verify that student athletes have mastered a certain core curriculum, and have no objection to procedures that make sure that this curriculum includes enough secular content to really serve as a "core" for further post-secondary studies. This is a reasonable goal that can undoubtedly be achieved without inhibiting religious expression.

    I urge you to review your current policy to make sure you can verify this secular core without interfering with religious liberty. In particular, I am concerned that your "non-doctrinal rule" would be inappropriate when applied to subjects other than theology or religious studies. Many religious schools and religious home schoolers bring a religious perspective to their study of secular subjects. Thus, for example, a Quaker or Mennonite school might be expected to teach pacifism as they study World War II, while a Jewish day school would focus on the theological implications of the Holocaust. Adding a religious dimension does not take away from the secular content of a subject. It is only when the subject matter is religion that one needs to make sure there is adequate secular content to count the course towards an overall humanities credit.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter. We recognize that the NCAA is not a governmental entity, so the constitutional guarantees of religious liberty do not directly apply. We are applying the "rule of reason," instead, as befits a private organization with monopoly power in a particular field. Our desire is to keep a level athletic playing field that still has a place for religious athletes. We would be happy to work with you to find a way to achieve this.

     Other Resources

    Click here to read the NCAA's letter

    Click here for more information on home schooling eligibility waivers