Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Vouchers for Jesus


This month, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) filed suit over a recently approved Denver County voucher program in violation of Colorado’s constitution, the first voucher program to pass since the Supreme Court ruling one-year ago that vouchers are constitutional.

Despite the flawed decision of the conservative high court, most Americans consistently oppose school voucher programs, not because we don’t want to improve educational opportunities for all children, but because of ample arguments against them; the ultimate destruction posed by vouchers hardly warrants their implementation. But regardless of their devastating effects, it doesn’t prevent those who would erode the Separation Clause of the First Amendment and undermine the education of public school children from repeated attempts at legislating such programs.

Of particular concern is a reintroduced federally funded voucher proposal for Washington D.C. that would cover students’ tuition up to $11,000 each. Similar legislation for Washington was approved during the Clinton years, but vetoed by the President during his term. With President Bush now in office, the threat of conservatives realizing this vision is real, thus, the need for mainstream Americans to voice their concerns, crucial.

It’s common knowledge that the majority of private schools in the U.S. are parochial. What isn’t readily recognized is that, amazingly enough, many of these religious schools don’t exist to meet children’s academic needs. In stark contrast, a growing proportion has developed to protect children from learning. Fundamentalists are particularly threatened by history and science that’s in conflict with their beliefs. Equally alarming to them is public education’s new emphasis on the development of critical thinking skills.

Unlike the reasons many of us support school of choice, such as for varied learning environments, few religious schools operate with such needs in mind. Many have fewer offerings than public schools for learning disabled or gifted students. And unlike private secular schools established to offer alternative approaches to learning, many conservative religious schools go to the opposite extreme, requiring even more rote learning than public schools.

For Christian fundamentalist schools, religious indoctrination is typically the primary purpose; education is secondary. A substantial part of each day is devoted to recitation and memorization of scriptures and prayers, teaching children how to proselytize, and preparing them for a future of evangelizing.

Likewise, the parents of these children (those enrolling their children in fundamentalist Christian schools), are generally well-aware of the nature of the religious teachings and often send their children solely for such purposes.

In 1947, the Supreme Court ruled in Everson v. Board of Education that,

“Neither [the Federal Government or the state] can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. . . . No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. . . .”

There’s no question that a substantial number of vouchers would fall squarely into those areas that this Supreme Court ruling prohibits.

The fact that private and parochial schools are not obligated to meet the same criteria as public schools for assuring a full and satisfactory education and to assure children’s physical and emotional well-being is an even greater blow to the idea of siphoning tax dollars from public institutions.

Of course, where there’s a will, there’s a way. In recent years, fundamentalists have found ways around the voucher system. Although many charter schools have originated for valid reasons, many more have been underhandedly formed by Christian conservatives to institute their religious teachings through government subsidies.

Not all parents who support vouchers do so for religious purposes. Many are truly seeking better opportunities for their children, especially those in poor districts where private schools do sometimes outperform the public. School choice and better educational opportunities is a serious issue that needs addressing. But vouchers only partially band-aid the problem at the expense of other students while violating our Constitution in so doing.

Because many proponents of vouchers are minorities, the long-term effects could be monumental, even to those most in need of vouchers, as an uncompromised Constitution and Bill of Rights is what ultimately protects their civil rights on a broad range of issues.

KIMBERLY BLAKER is editor and coauthor of The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America. Send your comments to KIMBERLY BLAKER C/O [enter your newspaper here], or to:



More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
Lara Gardner
Why I’m Not Voting
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017