When the issue of private school vouchers is debated, the discussion usually hinges on the negative effect such schemes would have on public schools. Often overlooked is the harm government aid would bring to religious and other private schools.
Fortunately, a small but growing number of conservatives are speaking out on this important concern.
For example, in the May 15 issue of World, a conservative Christian news- magazine, features editor Tim Lamer warns that taxpayer-funded voucher schemes are likely to increase the cost of private education and subject private schools to government regulation.
"There's no way around it," insists Lamer. "Christian schools simply cannot accept tax dollars without also, eventually, accepting taxpayer values."
Lamer reminds his readers that evangelical Christianity traditionally has been strongest in countries that keep religion and government apart. Citing the relative weakness of churches in Europe where religion is tax-supported, the writer argues that "separation of church and state, far from being an anti-Christian or leftist concept, is essential to the church's health."
Concludes Lamer, "School choice could be a siren song for private schools and the church; however sweet it sounds in theory, it likely will be destructive in practice."
This sort of sound thinking is beginning to trickle down to at least some of the Religious Right's grassroots divisions. While some groups such as the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family are still pushing hard for voucher programs, a few conservative Christian groups are pointing out the disadvantages.
In Texas voucher opponents were surprised to find themselves on the same side with the Texas Eagle Forum, the state affiliate of Phyllis Schlafly's group.
Writing in the March edition of the organization's newsletter Torch, Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams warns that "public funding would destroy private education." She charges that such aid would effectively turn private schools into public schools, make them dependent on public money, cause an increase in their tuition and gradually expunge religion from their curriculum.
"Government vouchers sound good at first," Adams said, "but when we measure whether they will bring more liberty or more government, they certainly grow government. And it is uncanny that conservatives would encourage government to reduce welfare and support a reduction in the size of government, but advocate school vouchers....We cannot mouth limited government while our actions promote limitless government."
All these points are well taken. We must make sure they come to the attention of legislators studying this issue.