SCOTUS decision: Espinoza v. Montana,
Founders on church-state separation
Founders on church-state separation
Independence Day is a good time to explore the thoughts about public education expressed by the Founders. This year, we have witnessed the weakening of America's public education system with the latest SCOTUS ruling on Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue -- a decision that will divert even more public funds to religious institutions in addition to weakening the concept of church-state separation.
First, let's hear from the Edu-blogosphere. The writers of each of the following posts have several concerns. First, by allowing public tax dollars to go to religious institutions, the state (here, with the permission of the federal judiciary) is "forcing" citizens to pay for religious instruction...to pay for religion. As Ben Franklin wrote...
When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a Sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.Second, vouchers divert money from and damage public education.
Third, if governments provide money for religious schools, those funds ought to come with government restrictions -- the same as the restrictions imposed on public schools. If it is illegal for public schools to discriminate in hiring when spending public dollars, it ought to be illegal for private schools to do the same. However, a church would rightfully argue that they ought to be able to hire those people who support and are willing to extend their mission. In other words, public funding of religion creates an "entanglement of church and state." To get around this entanglement, the court requires few strings attached to the money churches might receive from the state, which means that taxpayers might be paying for religious behavior and instruction with which they disagree.
This is the very reason that the Founders separated church and state in the First Amendment. Demanding restrictions on churches for the use of public dollars violates the rights of the church. Forcing taxpayers to fund religious doctrine violates the rights of the people. It's best not to let them entangle at all. "Render unto Caesar..."
REACTIONS TO SCOTUS DECISION: ESPINOZA V. MONTANA DEPT OF REVENUE
SCOTUS Just Poked Another Hole In The Wall Separating Church And State; Schools Will Suffer.
Peter Greene: The SCOTUS has elevated the Free Exercise clause over the Establishment clause.
Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue has further extended the precedent set by Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, a case that for the first time required “the direct transfer of taxpayers’ money to a church.” Historically, the free exercise clause of the First Amendment has taken a back seat to the establishment clause; in other words, the principle was that the government’s mandate to avoid establishing any “official” religion meant that it could not get involved in financing religious institutions, including churches or church-run private schools.
This has been a big stumbling block for the school voucher movement, because the vast majority of private schools that stand to benefit from vouchers are private religious schools. In fact, where school vouchers have been established, they are overwhelmingly used to fund religious schools.
Court embraces ‘short-sighted view of history’
Steve Hinnefeld: The court majority is reacting to a simplistic view of the history of church-state separation.
The majority opinion — and especially concurring opinions by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas — framed the decision as a blow against anti-Catholic bias enshrined in state constitutions via 19th century “Blaine amendments.” But that view papers over complex history, said Steven K. Green, a legal scholar at Willamette University and a leading expert on church-state issues.
Green told me it was disappointing that the court, in a highly consequential decision, “relied, to a certain extent, on a shortsighted view of history, not recognizing the nuances behind the development of the no-aid provisions.” Green elaborates on that history in an amicus brief submitted to the court on behalf of several Christian religious organizations that supported Montana’s position.
Five Takeaways From Today’s Supreme Court Ruling On Vouchers
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: This compels taxpayers to support religious schools and forces them to support faith-based discrimination.
This ruling is a serious blow to church-state separation and religious liberty: in his majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts rejected the notion that compelling taxpayers to support religious schools is a violation of an individual’s religious freedom rights. Rather, he asserted that when religious schools are denied access to certain taxpayer-funded programs, it is their religious freedom that’s being violated – a nonsensical claim that turns the very concept of religious freedom on its head.
The ruling exposes taxpayers to forced funding of discrimination: Of the 12 private schools taking part in Montana’s program, 10 have discriminatory policies that they apply to students, teachers and staff. These policies either require adherence to a certain faith tradition and/or refuse admission to LGBTQ students or children with disabilities altogether. Taxpayers of Montana will now effectively be required to support these schools, unless Montana’s legislature takes action to prohibit Montana’s program from supporting schools that engage in discriminatory practices. Importantly, the decision does not address whether states that fund private education may deny funding to schools that have discriminatory admissions or employment policies, or whether it is constitutional for states to fund such discriminatory schools if they want to do so.
Roberts’ Decision in Espinoza Case Undermines Protection of Church-State Separation; Will Damage Public Education
Jan Resseger: Vouchers drain money from public schools. Private schools are not required to provide protections for student rights.
Why are supporters of public education so concerned about the implications of this case? In the first place, voucher programs drain needed tax dollars out of public schools. In Ohio, for example, a state that already permits public funds to flow to religious schools, EdChoice vouchers extract $4,650 for each elementary and middle school voucher and $6,000 for each high school voucher—right from the local public school district’s budget.
Another serious problem with vouchers is that the law protects students’ rights in public schools, but the same laws do not protect students enrolled in private schools. Writing for Slate, Mark Joseph Stern worries that now, after Espinoza: “Taxpayers in most of the country will soon start funding overtly religious education—including the indoctrination of children into a faith that might clash with their own conscience. For example, multiple schools that participate in Montana’s scholarship program inculcate students with a virulent anti-LGBTQ ideology that compares homosexuality to bestiality and incest. But many Montanans of faith believe LGBTQ people deserve respect and equality because they are made in the image of God. What does the Supreme Court have to say to Montanans who do not wish to fund religious indoctrination that contradicts their own beliefs?”
FOUNDERS ON CHURCH-STATE ENTANGLEMENT
James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," was emphatic in his opposition to church-state entanglement...
James Madison And Church-State Separation
Madison was against discrimination based on religious beliefs.
Madison was one of the first thinkers in colonial America to understand why church and state must be separated. His advocacy for this concept grew out of his own personal experiences in Virginia, where Anglicanism was the officially established creed and any attempt to spread another religion in public could lead to a jail term.
Early in 1774, Madison learned that several Baptist preachers were behind bars in a nearby county for public preaching. On Jan. 24, an enraged Madison wrote to his friend William Bradford in Philadelphia about the situation. "That diabolical Hell conceived principle of persecution rages among some and to their eternal Infamy the Clergy can furnish their quota of Imps for such business," Madison wrote. "This vexes me the most of any thing whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close Gaol [jail] for publishing their religious Sentiments which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither the patience to hear talk or think any thing relative to this matter, for I have squabbled and scolded abused and ridiculed so long about it, to so little purpose that I am without common patience. So I leave you to pity me and pray for Liberty of Conscience to revive among us."
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic
Madison led the fight in the Virginia legislature to pass Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the basis of the First Amendment.
James Madison, the leading opponent of government-supported religion, combined both arguments in his celebrated Memorial and Remonstrance. In the fall of 1785, Madison marshaled sufficient legislative support to administer a decisive defeat to the effort to levy religious taxes. In place of Henry's bill, Madison and his allies passed in January 1786 Thomas Jefferson's famous Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which brought the debate in Virginia to a close by severing, once and for all, the links between government and religion.
Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessment
James Madison: If the government can force you to pay for religious schools, then that same government may, in the future, force support for religion in other ways.
Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?
Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists
Jefferson explained his position clearly in his letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut in 1802.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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.
82. A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 18 June 1779
Earlier (1779), Jefferson drafted the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which Madison helped pass in the Virginia legislature.
We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.