President Donald J. Trump is continuing his trend of appointing people with troubling records on religious freedom to positions of power and prominence.
Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, guaranteeing our right to believe—or not—as we see fit. That right to believe (and to act on those beliefs, as long as we are not harming third parties) enjoys powerful First Amendment protection.
That protection, however, does not mean that dissatisfied persons can file lawsuits in order to force the government into adopting policies that favor their personal religious beliefs.
Maryland recently became the latest state to adopt a school voucher program that will benefit mostly religious schools. The state will spend $5 million on the program, which is aimed at low-income students in Baltimore.
The Washington Post is ecstatic. The newspaper, which constantly promotes vouchers on its editorial page, recently published an editorial that reads like a string of talking points from the Cato Institute.
Wisconsin’s voucher program will drain $2.2 million from public schools this year, and taxpayers could be stuck with higher taxes.
Recent changes to Wisconsin’s private school voucher program are resulting in less money for public schools, an outcome that’s no surprise because some “school choice” advocates have long sought to drain government-run schools of their resources. But in a turn of events that voucher supporters may come to regret, the Badger State’s scheme could eventually lead to higher property taxes.
Wisconsin’s Republican-dominated legislature has approved a bill that will expand the state’s voucher program by $48 million over the next two years. As written, that increase will cut into public school funding and will allow more private and religious schools to accept taxpayer dollars.
Critics are calling the legislation a mistake.
Back in the early 1990s when officials in the state of Wisconsin passed a voucher plan, people were assured that the idea was to help poor students trapped in underperforming public schools.
Christian clergy in Tennessee are pushing for the state to create a new voucher program that would benefit private schools.
Members of the group, which consists primarily of black churches, have been going door-to-door to collect signatures in support of creating a voucher program that they say would benefit low-income students. Critics assert that the primary beneficiaries would be sectarian schools.
Supporters of school voucher schemes love to throw around the world “choice.”
“You’ll get to send your child to the school of your choice!” they blare. To a lot of people, it sounds good. After all, everyone likes having choices, right?
Unfortunately, all of the rhetoric in the world doesn’t do you any good when it comes to vouchers because you don’t really have the choice. The private school does. Many of those schools will simply choose not to admit your child.
Some parents in Wisconsin are learning that the hard way.
Supporters of private school “choice” – by which they mean their right to choose to pass the bill for private religious education to the taxpayer – believe they are on a roll. To some extent, they’re right.
In March, Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled that the state’s voucher plan doesn’t violate a provision in the Indiana Constitution that bars tax aid to religion. In the wake of that ruling, legislators promptly approved an expansion of the program.