In 1786 Founding Father Thomas Jefferson wrote, that like Founding Father James Madison, he believed in designing a bill for religious freedom that, “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever;” particularly using tax dollars. That sentiment is part and parcel of the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment, and yet over 229 years later evangelical Republicans are compelling taxpayers to support religious worship in private schools despite it is a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Last week, in a decision sure to be appealed to the conservative Vatican-5 on the Supreme Court by the religious right and evangelical Republicans, Colorado’s highest court ruled that a county’s so-called “Choice Scholarship Program” violates the Colorado Constitution because it unconstitutionally diverts public school funds to private, religious schools. The Court’s ruling specifically cited Article IX, Section 7 of the state Constitution and explained, “This stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear: A school district may not aid religious schools. Yet aiding religious schools is exactly what the voucher program does.”
As the Legal Director of the Colorado ACLU, Mark Silverstein, said; “Parents are free to send their children to private religious schools if they wish, but the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed today that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for it.” The counsel for “The Petitioners,” rightly noted that “The court made clear that this type of program violates the plain language of the Colorado Constitution, and it rejected the argument that temporarily passing the money through the hands of parents could avoid this specific prohibition.” Regardless what the Colorado state Constitution says, using public money for religious schools also violates the law of the land, the U.S. Constitution.
In Louisiana, another evangelical fanatic, Governor Piyush Jindal, “reformed” (slashed) public education and directed taxpayer-funded public school money to fund private religious schools any sane human being would label evangelical madrassas. Piyush’s theft of taxpayer money was ruled unconstitutional by a Louisiana District Court. The unconstitutional transfer (stealing) of taxpayer money funded private religious schools replete with truly bizarre lessons, and financed evangelical ministries operated by truly maniacal preachers. The District Court Judge, Tim Kelly, declared that diverting public school funds to any private religious schools was patently unconstitutional. As an aside, some Republicans in Tennessee railed at the unconstitutional maneuver in their state; not because it funded religious schools with public school money, but because a Muslim school “might have qualified” for the illegal transfer of taxpayer money.
In Wisconsin where another Republican governor and legislature are slashing public education to preserve tax cuts for the rich and sate the privatization lust of the Koch brothers, the state budget was secretly amended by evangelical Republicans demanding that more of Wisconsin taxpayer’s dollars flow directly to private, religious schools that promise students a better spiritual future. The taxpayer payments will be drained from public schools at current unconstitutional levels for kindergarten through third grade Christian students. State Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) joined Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) to announce that “We had to fight to make this happen in Racine.” Despite major cuts to public schools, the evangelical move “underscores just how quickly the education landscape is changing in Wisconsin and just how much power religious Republicans have to advance causes they believe in while public school funding was slashed.” Wanggaard said “the situation earlier this year for the HOPE private religious school network with its mission of Christ was not the only reason he and Vos pushed to making sure private religious schools didn’t lose money in the statewide expansion.” Underfunding public schools and bolstering privatization with taxpayer funding for religious instruction was a primary motivation; the U.S. Constitution be damned.
In Kansas, where evangelical Sam Brownback has been hammered by the Kansas Supreme Court for unconstitutionally underfunding the state’s public schools, the Republican-led Senate snuck a provision in the budget last month to fund private religious schools at the expense of public education. Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Boards says the Republican move is using public money to pay for private religious schools. Tallman also noted the obvious; “there’s no way to know if the money is being well spent because private religious schools don’t have the reporting requirements of public schools. It’s creating an opportunity to use funds that are created by public action without the kind of accountability that we require for every other public dollar in our education system. ” The Catholic Church was one of the driving forces behind the legislation and the head of the Kansas Catholic Conference lied and said “I know that’s a talking point that people who oppose school choice often use but it’s just completely wrong.”
This theft of taxpayer money at the expense of public schools is not about parental school choice, or because schools are failing due to underfunding, and legal scholar Jonathan Turley elucidated exactly what the evangelical Republican motivation is. Turley writes that, “These legislators often deny that they have any interest in funding church institutions and simply want to improve educational opportunities for students (while refusing to actually fully fund public schools or commit resources to make them competitive). The poor performance of deliberately underfunded public schools allows legislators to siphon off funds to religious institutions in the name of education. It is a perverse incentive. By not fixing their schools, religious legislators can get more money to private Christian schools. However, as Tennessee reminds everyone, it has to be the right religion to receive public subsidy.”
An opinion piece in the “Tennessean” further clarifies what Turley, and any American with more than a pea-brain, understands about the evangelical Republican drive to “force” taxpayers to fund private Christian schools as education reform. They write that “Its (Christian instruction) backers are promoting it as a charitable alternative for students trapped in failing public schools. This, however, is a disingenuous campaign that, if successful, would further undermine the state’s already vulnerable public education system, while supporting religious schools across the state;” but only Christian religious schools that predictably contribute to America’s overwhelmingly ignorant populace.
Besides being blatantly unconstitutional, study after research after mounds of empirical data show that these phony evangelical Republican “education reform” plans promise results but deliver nothing but failure and student incompetence borne of “bible-based instruction.” For example, in just one of many, many reports, a 2011 study found that students participating in a Scott Walker Milwaukee program were woefully lagging behind their public school counterparts in both math and reading. In another analysis of Louisiana’s religious voucher program funded with stolen public school money released in 2013 found that only 40 percent of third through eighth graders receiving religious school vouchers barely scored at their respective grade level on statewide tests in English, math, social studies and science. By comparison, 69 percent of all third through eighth grade public school students statewide scored above grade level on those exact same tests. Religious instruction, like charter schools, guarantees Republicans the ignorant electoral base they depend on to exist, and dooms America to maintain its exceptional status as a stupid nation.
This list could go on with the same finding in every state in the nation. Like the preponderance of private, corporate, religious, or public charter schools, and there are no objective studies of voucher programs, particularly religious voucher programs, that found they increase academic performance. What they do increase is more unconstitutional taxpayer funding for religion, and another generation of ignorant Republican voters too mentally deficient to comprehend they are voting against their own self-interests which is precisely why every Republican state in the nation is stealing taxpayer money to fund private Christian religious schools.
One of the principles behind the Founding Fathers and Constitution’s Framers insertion of “religious liberty” in the First Amendment is that government shall not, and cannot, compel any American citizen to provide funds to support a religion with which they disagree; or a religion with which they do agree. Evangelical Republicans cannot accept the “Establishment Clause” in the First Amendment, or tolerate a public education system free of biblical instruction, no matter the Constitution or Court rulings; because not only do they hate America, its Constitution, and a public education system, they desperately need a theocracy to ensure they have a stupid electoral base for generations.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.