Fundamentalists, evangelicals etc have long supported the republican idea of a school voucher program, in other words shifting the education of americans away from public schools which are only allowed to teach facts (though some still break those rules), and toward private schools (funded with tax dollars) that are allowed to engage in religious indoctrination, teach political ideologies etc. Many evangelicals see the public school system as evil and anti-religion and there’s a big movement to home school your children or get them into private, religious schools. Many evangelicals either don’t have the resources or the inclination to home school their kids, so the idea of a publicly funded private religious education seems to many like a godsend – no pun intended.
Evangelicals also tend not to be concerned with separation of church and state or using someone else’s money to promote their religious beliefs, or with persecuting minorities for that matter, as they insist we are a “christian nation”. So this blog isn’t about fairness, justice or even the tyrannical nature of using someone else’s money to fund your religion. I will only make the arguments that would appeal to a fundamentalist, because I think they are almost never brought up.
First of all, the separation of church and state isn’t just to protect atheists or muslims or jews from religious persecution, it was created in the US largely to protect christians from being persecuted by other christians. Our founders were rebelling against an actual “christian nation” that forced them to follow what they thought was right. In the british colonies christians were under the thumb of the church/government authority. In virginia failure to attend mass at least once a month (before modern transportation) was punishable by “afine of 5 shillings or 50 pounds of tobacco, or whipping of ten lashes.” That was when they were a lot more progressive in the 1700’s (due largely to their great distance and relative independence from the “christian nation” of england), in the 1600’s their governor Samuel Argall decreed “Every Person should go to church, Sundays and Holidays, or lye Neck and Heels (be put in the stocks) that Night, and be a Slave to the Colony the following Week; for the second Offence, he should be a Slave for a Month; and for the third, a Year and a Day.”
So yeah, separation of church and state – it’s not just for non-christians. The same pattern follows from other eras too, most of the people tortured in the inquisition were christians who were tortured or killed for being the “wrong” sort of christian – virtually every christian reading this would have qualified for torture. So when you involve the state in religious matters you give the power of the law to priests, but you also make priests subject to the power of the law.
As for school vouchers specifically, if you’re a fundamentalist or a creationist or you have views that are not politically correct (or which may one day become politically incorrect) you might want to avoid a school voucher program. Because while it seems like it would strengthen your views by getting money flowing into conservative, religious schools, it’s not any old money – it’s federal tax dollars. Which means that the state can give the money and attach strings to it at any time without violating the constitution. It’s not unconstitutional to give money conditionally. For instance a law saying I could not buy a car with my own money would be unconstitutional, but if I am collecting money for charity it’s not a violation of my rights that I can’t use the money to go buy a car. Because giving money with conditions is a contract, by accepting the money I’m agreeing on certain pre-conditions. So by opening up the floodgate of federal cash there might be a temporary boon to your ideology but then once private religious schools are dependent on that money to stay in operation the government can, likely without even passing new legislation, decide that any school that takes vouchers can’t teach creationism. Or can’t condemn homosexuality, or can’t whatever.
This is exactly what happened recently when catholic charities were up in arms about their employers’ insurance by law having to cover birth control, which they are morally opposed to. State after state sued the federal government because this was a violation of their civil rights – and they lost one after another. Why? Because they all had tax exempt status, meaning they are all subsidized by the government and the government can therefore regulate what they do. So the option is either pay taxes and do whatever you like, or be subsidized by the government and play by the government’s rules. The same is true of churches, religious schools and even individuals.
And you can fight it like the catholic church did, you can sue the government, but you would lose because the ramifications of you winning would be insane. If strings couldn’t be attached to money any more then people could buy guns with food stamps because stopping them would violate their civil rights. And virtually all forms of fraud would be legal because now you can buy a car with money you said was for kids with cancer. Contracts themselves would be a thing of the past and the whole system would collapse. No court in the world would side with you.
So by all means create a school voucher program, but many of your beliefs (which are minority beliefs, despite the majority being christian) like six day creationism and homosexuality being evil and evolution and the big bang being wrong – kiss those goodbye.