School vouchers allow parents to choose the school their children attend… including schools that explicitly “teach” religion. I put “teach” in quotes because religious belief is not an academic subject. Teaching religious belief is truly indoctrination and reinforcement of faith-based ideas. So why is this taught in schools? Shouldn’t it be taught at home or at church services? The government has an interest in educating students, but not in indoctrinating them with religious beliefs. It is a subject that should not be offered in government funded schools. If some people want their children to take religion classes in school, let them set up and pay for their own schools, but those schools must meet all the academic standards of the public school system.
This seems to me to be the crux of the voucher controversy. Most people accept the principle of the Establishment Clause… that the government should not show favoritism towards any religion, or towards religion in general rather than non-belief. No one to my knowledge openly advocates government payments to churches. But defenders of the vouchers want the government to pay for religious education in schools.
Politicians often violate the establishment clause… how about “prayer breakfasts” by political leaders? Of course, this is just an expression of their personal faith, but political leaders cannot completely separate themselves from their official position of authority. Unfortunately, most of our politicians often bow to Christianity, whether they are believers or not… and this leads to things like school vouchers, a religious education grant. An even bigger subsidy is tax exemptions for churches. Most church activities are not charitable programs, so they cannot claim that this warrants the grant. Instead, they invoke the free exercise clause. The word “exercise” is widely misused by religious advocates. Everyone should be … and are … free to practice the faith they love … or no faith at all. Does “exercise” mean that they can collect tax-deductible donations from their members to build churches and operate those churches without paying taxes like any other owner? Does free exercise mean free ride, paid for by all who are not members of the church? Does the Constitution mean by free exercise?
There is an old maxim: “A tax exemption is a tax on anyone who does not get the exemption. The government needs a certain amount of money to function. Tax exemptions shift this financial burden. A smaller taxpayer base means that those taxpayers will each have to pay more to meet government needs. Remove the exemption and tax rates can go down.
Back to coupons. The attempt to use my taxes to fund religious indoctrination by confusing it with college programs is outrageous. It violates the establishment clause and has nothing to do with the free exercise of religion. Remove religion from publicly funded school programs, and vouchers are acceptable.