Belief in supernatural causality entails knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one event leads to the cause of another without any physical process linking the two events, and it includes disciplines such as astrology, omens, witchcraft, and especially religion that all contradict natural science. Superstition borne of religion is the bane of intelligent thinking and certainly does not contribute to, or belong in, education that is meant to produce a well-informed populace, and especially in a nation like America that forbids using government-collected taxpayer dollars to promulgate a religious ideology. The deleterious effects of teaching religious dogma is evident in many Americans’ rejection of science, global climate change, freedom from religion, and women’s reproductive rights, and yet there is a growing movement to insert religion into the education system using taxpayer dollars.
Despite the unconstitutionality of teaching religion in public schools, there are hundreds of schools teaching creationism, the fairy tale that a being crafted the Earth and all living entities over the course of six days, and they are receiving tens of millions of public dollars through school voucher programs. The private religious schools publicly state that they teach creationism on their websites, and if they remained privately funded there would be no cause for consternation, but schools that teach creationism do not meet basic science standards and fail students, and they serve evangelicals’ need to create uninformed children as a bridge to a perpetual backward thinking populace. Advocates for vouchers argue that private schools and more competition offer a better education for American students, and that may be true, but Americans are funding the next generation of religious extremists responsible for a great deal of America’s woes.
The theory behind using vouchers is they allow children from poor and low-income backgrounds to attend private schools instead of public schools, but in practice, vouchers are funding religious instruction where actual science, and reality, takes a backseat to creationism as found in the Christian bible, and it suits religious fanatics who contest reality as a matter of course. However, it is patently unconstitutional to use public money to fund religious instruction, and time and time again the judicial system has ruled that teaching supernatural causality in the form of creationism, or intelligent design, violates the Establishment Clause in the Constitution.
In November, one of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s signature accomplishments, a private school tuition voucher program, was ruled unconstitutional by a Louisiana judge who said the program unconstitutionally diverts local tax dollars allocated to Louisiana’s public schools to private religious schools that teach Young Earth Creationism; the superstitious belief that the universe is no older than 10,000 years. Jindal, a hard line Christian conservative, said the ruling was “wrong-headed and a travesty for parents across Louisiana who want nothing more than for their children to have an equal opportunity at receiving a great education.” In evangelical terms, great education means inculcating bible-based ideology with no basis in fact or reality in young impressionable minds; religious instruction’s goal.
The practice of teaching creationism in public schools, or with public dollars, has been ruled unconstitutional many times, over and again, by the judicial system. One fine example is Edwards vs. Aguillard, that was based on the idea that the First Amendment prohibits the endorsement of religion, and that using taxpayer dollars to promote a religious ideology is inherently endorsing the Christian religion. In a landmark case in Harrisburg Pennsylvania in 2005, Kitzmiller et al. vs. Dover, a judge ruled that relabeling creationism as Intelligent Design violates the Establishment Clause and was teaching the Christian bible’s creation fairy tale. It is noteworthy that the judge in the case is a conservative Republican, and in his written opinion he said it was “breathtaking inanity” to rebrand creationism as Intelligent Design which is an understatement of epic proportion.
It is, frankly, irrelevant that creationism is provably, overwhelmingly wrong in every conceivable way, and if evangelicals are inclined to keep their children’s education shrouded in superstition and fairy tales, stunting their ability to learn about the real world, and putting them at a severe disadvantage to children taught real science, it is their decision and their responsibility to pay private tuition themselves. However, the idea of using public funds, or vouchers, to teach creationism is a decision the courts have ruled unconstitutional based on the nation’s founding document and it is not the purview of fundamentalist Christians serving as elected representatives to dole out taxpayer dollars to fund religious education based on superstition and fairy tales.
America cannot maintain its technological leadership role in the world with a population educated using religious mythos as its curricula, and yet that is the goal of evangelical fundamentalists. One of main reasons it is nearly impossible to address such pressing, Earth changing, problems as global climate change is the oil industry’s dependence on an shamefully ignorant population suspicious of empirical data, and in states such as Virginia and Texas, Republicans have had great success demeaning climate scientists that prevents sound measures to diminish the devastation of extreme weather events ravaging many parts of the country. Americans should be outraged that conservatives have thwarted efforts to reduce the effects of climate change to enrich the oil industry, and that their tax dollars are funding the next generation of superstitious climate change deniers.
Using vouchers for education serves a double purpose for conservatives in that they advance privatization of the education system in America as well as keep the population dependent on Iron Age superstition as basis for understanding the world. The decision to teach religious dogma as science is not the purview of conservatives or fundamentalist Republicans, but through the use of vouchers, that is precisely what is happening despite being ruled unconstitutional time and time again, and it informs that there is still a campaign in America to replace the Constitution, science, and now the education system with the ultimate fairy tale; the Christian bible.