FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Vouchers for Jesus

by KIMBERLY BLAKER

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: kblaker@TheWall-OnChurchAndState.com

© 2003, KIMBERLY BLAKER

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail