The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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Addressing Common Misconceptions in Certain Voucher Discussions II

Continued from Article I

by Susan Batte


Argument:

(1) There is no widespread dissatisfaction with the public schools.

(2) Vouchers would destroy the public schools.

This is a paradox: If people are not dissatisfied with the public schools, then few people would take advantage of vouchers if available, hence vouchers would NOT destroy public schools, contradicting (1).

Response:

"And by the way, if only a few people were dissatisfied with the public school system, then the voucher program you are pushing for would have the express purpose of catering to an elitist group of parents who (coincidentally?) belong to the same religious groups."


Argument:

It is a religious test if the religion of the beneficiary or the service provider disqualifies the voucher. The converse is that if vouchers are given without regard to the religion of the beneficiary or service provider, then no religious test has been applied.

Response:

"You state that "it is a religious test if the religion of the beneficiary or the service provider disqualifies the voucher." Vouchers as you define them is not the way education is funded by the government. The government pays for the education of children through the public school system which does not condition enrollment on the basis of religious belief. Nor does the public school system have as one of its purposes the advancement of religion by any means. The public school system is the only fair system to combat the "religious test" if that is truly what you fear."


Argument:

A voucher to a religious school is constitutional if a percent of the vouchers is deducted representing the amount of time spent in religious class.

A similar amount must be deducted from government schools which are engaged in teaching content which contradicts the material taught in religion class.

Response:

"As regards deductions for teaching content which contradicts the material taught in religion class, you can be sure that such content based restrictions are sure to cause excessive entanglement between church and state. How would public schools recognize material contrary to a specific religious sect's belief. Private religious schools would have to surrender their curriculum over to government officials to ensure that no government money would be used to promote religious belief. Private religious schools may actually change their curriculum to receive more money - thus defeating your purpose for vouchers: to fund schools you perceive as better than public schools."


Argument:

Voucher programs that are not upheld by the SC are still not unconstitutional.

More precisely, the SC may eventually be found to be in error, or may be trumped by a constitutional amendment. Furthermore, I do assert that current case law does NOT inevitably preclude the possibility that a reformulation of the law cannot modify the outcome.

Response:

".... IF the Supreme Court overrules itself

.... IF a Constitutional amendment is passed and ratified

.... IF the law is "reformulated" (whatever that means)

.... You provide no evidence that any of these events are even close to happening. You are basically saying that anytime the Supreme Court makes a decision, there exists the possibility that they will someday overturn themselves. You are also say that every time the Supreme Court makes a decision, there exists the possibility that Congress will pass an Amendment to overturn that decision. You have to present more than these bald statements to attempt to suggest that the Supreme Court is close to reversing itself on vouchers, or that Congress is ready to support an Amendment to overrule the Supreme Court on this matter.

You qualify your answer using three very big "IFs." Overruling itself, is something the Supreme Court does not like to do. As much as Rhenquist and Scalia claim they dislike the Lemon test, it nonetheless remains current law.

Constitutional Amendments don't happen every day, if you notice. And why would the majority of society want to reformulate the law to support a system designed to educate a small, "elite" group?

The public school system remains the fairest, most cost effective way to educate children".


Argument:

Feeding the poor, nursing the sick, teaching children to read are religious activities.

Teaching children to read can be secular or profane. The question is, will the children be taught using (as extreme examples of various genre) Mein Kampf, Das Kapital, the Bible, the Koran, or the DNC platform?

Response:

"How do the above impune the integrity of the public schools. If the course is high school comparative religion, then the Bible and the Koran would be appropriate for the classroom. Of a high school history class studying WWII or development of world economic systems ....

Argument:

|Feeding the poor and nursing the sick are activities which many religions engage in for a variety of reasons. Whatever agencies do these things obtain benefits in terms of "goodwill" and obtain some opportunity to promulgate their point of view. In the case of the government, the point of view appears to be the premises underlying the "Great Society," which at best have been a mixture of success and failure.

Response:

"How can it profit society to condition obtaining food and shelter on religious persuasion? What kind of freedom exists if the destitute must be forced to listen to and/or support the tenets of a particular religion in order to obtain basic necessities. The pact made at the beginning of what is now the United States of America included religious liberty - freedom of conscience. Therefore, poverty is not the result of a failure to believe in God; homelessness is not a punishment alleviated by attending religious lectures."


Argument:

People who live on welfare (or food stamps) would not be allowed to give money to their church if government funds were strictly prohibited from getting into the hands of churches; and you can't buy religious stuff either - Easter eggs, etc.

Yes, this is the logical extreme. Showing the absurdity of the extreme demonstrates that all points along the continuum are subject to question.

Response:

"You need no extremes to evaluate public money programs. Nothing about our government system was intended to be despotic. Conditioning a welfare recipient's benefits on purchases that are non-religious in nature would excessively entangle church and state and would prohibit the free exercise of religion. The money is the object of the program.

Education is the object of the public school program. The recipient of the money can make purchases based on the dictates of his own conscience, and if he values supporting his local church over food, shelter, medicine, etc., it is his right to do so. The recipient of free education is also free to use his education for any purpose he chooses: to become a priest, to teach at a religious school, etc.

In addition you are running into legal concepts such as ATTENUATE BENEFIT, DIRECT AID, INDIRECT AID, AND DE MINIMIS NON CURAT LEX. Those are legal principles that would have direct bearing on your effort to make a case concerning the fact that someone who is on welfare might put some money on the collection plate in church, or should happen to buy something at a church bookstore, etc.


 
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