Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Friday, November 18, 2011

School vouchers unconstitutional?

Question of the Day: Should school vouchers be given to pay for private schools, even if they're religious schools?  What about the separation of church and state?

I've been mulling this over in my mind recently as PA is considering passing a bill to enact a school voucher program.

[For those who might not be familiar with them, what this would do is to give a parent funds -presumably what the state would have paid to publicly educate their child- that the parent could use to send their child to a private school.]

I'm not sure what this would do to the public schools as far as funding and I've flip-flopped in my mind about the wisdom of taking funds from public schools even though they would have less students and I've decided I don't have enough information to decide if that is going to be detrimental or not.  So, disregarding the funding issues, the other thing nagging at me is the separation of church and state and whether this would violate that.

The term "Separation of Church and State" is not in the constitution but comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 which reads:
 "... I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." 
Getting back to the voucher idea, there is no exclusion of religious schools in the bill so if it is passed as it presently reads, it would allow parents to use tax-payer money to help pay for the tuition of religious schools.  I feel that this is inappropriate.

Don't get me wrong.  I think that parents have a right to expose their children to whatever religion they wish to. That is their prerogative. HOWEVER, I don't think that my tax dollars should go toward religious education. Nor should anyone else's.

If parents have problems affording tuition at religious schools for their children, then perhaps churches and religious organizations should set up scholarship programs or funds to help them afford to send their children to these schools.  It is not the responsibility of the general public to fund these schools.  That seems clear to me.

Image of the Eagle Nebula courtesy of NASA

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