So, the Supreme Court is hearing a case called Espinoa v. Montana Department of Revenue. It’s about whether a state can refuse to provide religious schools with the same per pupil support (typically, seven or eight thousand per student, though this case deals with tax credits for education savings “scholarships”) that it supplies to public schools. This case is extraordinarily important because
- if states have to support private religious schools through vouchers or tax credits or regular per pupil transfers, there will be far more private schools and far fewer public schools.
- the case will affect the definition of separation of church and state and spill over into many other areas, such as whether a business can discriminate against LBTQX persons for religious reasons. Think of it this way: do states have an obligation to use your taxpayer dollars to support private religious schools that teach intolerance of immigrants and foreigners and other religions and LGBTQX persons? Hmmm.
- the new private schools resulting from this case will doubtless often be highly segregated because there is nothing to prevent private schools from having a culture and curriculum abhorrent to minority children and their parents.
The court has the votes to overturn considerable precedent by ruling for the plaintiffs.
Of course, if the justices seek justice, they will rule for public schools and the separation of church and state. But there is an alternative: they can be remembered by history for signing onto the worst decision since Plessy v. Ferguson.
Why do right-wingers want to overturn the clear precedent of separation of church and state in schooling? Well, they can read the polls. They can see that on issue after issue–guns, abortion, Medicare for all, taxes, climate change, LGBTQX rights, etc.–there is, among young people, a SUPERMAJORITY that is against them. If right-wingers don’t convert MILLIONS of young people, they are facing extinction a generation from now. And what better way to effect indoctrination of a new generation of right-wing lemmings than to create fundamentalist Christian madrasas around the country? Doing so would also have the salubrious effects, from their point of view, of killing teachers’ unions (which are a public school phenomenon) and diverting billions of taxpayer dollars into private profits.
However, right-wingers, be careful what you ask for. For much of their history, the nation states of Europe were officially theocratic, with what our founders called “established”–by which they meant “government-sponsored”–religions. After the Reformation, there were Protestant nation states and Catholic nation states. In England, the monarch was officially the head of the church.
When Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which provided the basis for the clause in Article Six of our Constitution that prohibited a religious test for office and later for the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, there were those who were horrified by this Roger Williams-like call for strict separation. Would the new United States become an irreligious country?
Well, precisely the opposite happened. Today, in the former theocratic nation states of Europe, religious belief is in sharp decline, and many fine churches stand empty. In the United States, with its wall of separation between religion and the state, religion flourishes, and literally thousands of denominations have sprung up. Freedom is a fertile soil.
Nutcase Evangelicals gathered around Don the Con in the now Offal Office in the now Whiter House may think they want government sanctioning of religion–the use of taxpayer dollars to fund their madrasas. But they won’t, if they are successful, end up with the Handmaid’s Tale world they so fervently pray (prey?) for. They will end up with schools full of kids pushing back against the rigidity, the stupidity, the dullness and sameness, of the official line, what with the arc of history and all. LOL.
However, in the short term (for many decades, before we arrive at that future irreligiosity) there will be much strife if the justices rule for the plaintiffs. If the justices force the country to swallow this diseased Apple of Discord, much sickness will result in the Body Politic, which is already on life support due to the autoimmune disease of factionalism. The question will arise, over and over, again and again, in other areas of public life. Will the citizens of a town be able to declare it officially Christian? Will the Church of Satan and the Wiccans and the ayahuasca churches and the Pastafarians and the Church of Bob (yes, there is such a thing) and the Church of the Dude be able to set up schools in Florida and Mississippi and demand taxpayer dollars (in the form of vouchers or direct subsidies) for those? What will the bible thumpers of Florida and Mississippi think of that?
So, there will be all these battles, further dividing us, further factionalizing us, at the very time when we are so factionalized that reasonable pundits are talking about the possibility of Civil War again in these dis-United States.
Lord help us. LOL.
This is, indeed, an extremely important decision. And its importance goes far beyond preserving public schools from the diversion of funding into private religious ones, as if that weren’t cause enough to reject this attempted overthrow of our sacred wall of separation that has for so long protected freedom of thought.
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For some satire on the use of government funding to support religious schools, go here: https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/2020/02/05/bobs-ayahuasca-school-for-little-cosmic-voyagers-and-bobs-real-good-florida-skool/
For more by Bob Shepherd on Education “Reform,” go here: https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/category/ed-reform/
For more by Bob Shepherd (including cartoons!) on the Trump misadministration, go here: https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/category/trump-don-the-con/