Home schoolers can't use LDS meetinghouses for their activities anymore.

That's the word from the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, contained in a letter read at several Utah LDS church meetings Sunday.

The announcement could send some groups scrambling for a place to have arts and crafts or sporting activities, said Jon Yarrington, president of the Utah Home Education Association. But he said clarification was needed, both for the church and home educators.

"I think it's about time," Yarrington said. "They were very plain in their language: This has nothing to do with education or choice of education or anything else . . . but there are some people out there misreading what was done."

The First Presidency occasionally issues statements, such as on disaster relief efforts, election neutrality or policy changes, to be read to churchgoers.

Home educators increasingly have asked to use meeting houses for activities, according to the First Presidency's April 19 letter.

Requests locally have been granted for arts and crafts or sporting "activity days" and to temporarily house a home-school choir, Yarrington said.

But apparently, church house doors swing open to some but remain bolted for others.

"Some leaders have let home-school families use their buildings while others have not been inclined to do so," states the National LDS Homeschool Association's April 25 online newsletter. "Many requests have gone to the church asking for clarification on this issue."

Church policy now is clear.

"The letter indicated that to help avoid safety and tax liabilities, meeting houses should not be used as home-school or day-care facilities, or for hosting home-school activities," LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills said in an e-mail statement.

"While the church strongly encourages education, church facilities are dedicated for the purposes of worship, religious instruction and other church-related activities," Bills wrote.

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The clarification could make it tough for some home-school groups to get together for activities, Yarrington said.

"We personally have never used the church . . . (but) I'm not sure what everyone will do," he said.

The National LDS Homeschool Association, which urges its members to follow the edict "with the eye of faith," plans to offer other meeting place suggestions.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," Yarrington said. "So, I'm sure (home educators will) come up with something. We're not unaccustomed to having to do that."


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com