Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Time for biology class... Everyone step outside for moment.

In a 4-3 decision in favor of several Christian schools, the CA Supreme Court has ruled that the state may issue tax-exempt bonds to religious schools for repairs and construction if the facilities in question will be used to teach non-religious subjects (e.g. math) similar to the standard academic curriculum. Does this ruling strike anyone else as idiotic?

First, no matter what they promise now, these facilities will sooner or later be used for religious purposes. Everyone knows it. Possession is 9/10 of the law. It's not like they're going to have a "Christ-Free Zone" sign at the doorway. And no doubt the walls will be plastered with religious paraphernalia. (First math lesson, 3 = 1 ?)

Second, since religious activities are mandatory at these schools, it is not possible for students to use these facilities without also receiving religious instruction. No Buddhists, Jews, or atheists will be enjoying these facilities.

Third, a dollar is a dollar. By subsidizing the secular activities at a school, the state frees up funds for the religious activities. The state does not require that any of the savings from the tax-free nature of the bonds be passed on to the parents in the form of lower tuition. The dissent noted that this would just make the state a "fundraiser" for this kind of school. The end result is a more attractive religious school that can now afford field trips to the Holy Land.

Fourth, how finely can one really slice it? Could the state give a school 40% tax-free bonds if it the school said that 40% of the time religion was not being explicitly taught? Can one even separate the two? If Christian parents send their children to private Christian schools because they deplore the "secular" atmosphere of public schools, surely it is obvious that there will be a pervasive "Christian" atmosphere at Christian schools? I mean, isn't that the point of having a Christian school?

7 comments:

Bell Curve said...

Kudos on the 3=1 joke ...

Anonymous said...

The advanced math lecture will be

pi = 3.2

RBR

The Law Talking Guy said...

I think it's a bad decision too, but it doesn't put a christian school in any different position from a secular private school. I object to all of them being funded.

Raised By Republicans said...

The difference is of course that it violates the clause of the Constitution that prohibits the establishment of a Religion.

And before we hear the usual response that the Founders did not mean to impose such a stark seperation. Let us consider what James Madison himself actually said on the matter (Madison was THE author of the Constitution).

Here is a link to a number of Madison's writings on the subject.
http://candst.tripod.com/tnppage/qmadison.htm
Including his letter to Congress explaining his veto of the appointment of a House Chaplain. In that letter he says that by forcing tax payers to subsidize religious practice their rights are being violated.

Madison (as President) also opposed setting aside public land for Churches for the same reason!

Madison absolutely would have seen this ruling in California as a violation of the establishment clause.

There is a huge difference between subsidies for parochial schools and secular ones. One is unconstitutional, the other is not.

We must remember that Madison (and Jefferson was even more agressive on this) felt that Americans should have freedom of Religion but also freedom from Religion as well. They were particular opposed to the kind of institutionallize religious practices that parochial schools represent. Jefferson called it "tyrrany of the mind." Keep in mind that "tyrrany" was about the worst lable these guys could think of to apply to anything they didn't like.

USWest said...

The other aspect of this that hasn't been mentioned is the pressure it puts on public school funding.

It took 20 years for the small town I grew up in to pass a bond to build a new public high school. The old one, my alma madder, was built ot house 2000 students and was bursting at 4000 when the bond was finally passed.

My current school district, which should be wealthy, is suffering from a similar problem. Thei buildings need repairs. They can't get the bonds passed, although the voters did pass bonds for new buildings on the JC campus.

This is just another scheme to undercut the public school system. Not all public schools are bad. We should be working with our teachers and parents to try and fix our public schools since educaiton is the key to success and progress. We need to change the national dialogue so that students aren't considered as victims, but as responsible for their learning goals. I am tired of hearing about poor students and bad schools and teachers.

As an aside: I am a product of 8 years of Catholic School. We never wanted tax breaks or government help because we didn't want state interference in our school. And, we had many non-catholic students, but none that I know of who were non-Christian.

Also, since voters are unlikely to pass bonds for non-Christian schools, it is religious discrimination on that count as well.

The Law Talking Guy said...

A slight correction to the foregoing comments is in order.

1. The bonds are issued by a state agency (in conjunction with 350 counties and municipalities). They are not voter-approved (so the fear of discrimination by voters can be allayed).
2. The principal and interest of the bonds must be repayed by the religious school. The only benefit is tax-exempt status for the bonds. This is not enormously different from the tax-exempt status such institutions (most schools, religious or not) already get.
3. No money is taken away from public schools for this purpose. This funding is outside the state education budget

I still think it's the wrong decision because I think there should be ZERO aid for "nondenominational Christian" schools that are basically madrasas, but it's nowhere near the radical change in policy or funding that it might appear at first blush.

uswest said...

No money is taken from public schools . . .

Yes and no. Voters don't pass bonds to begin with, or if they do, they don't pass all of them on a ballot. They make choices. If there are too many bonds on a ballot, some inevitably fail. It just makes it all that harder for bonds designated for schools to pass.

If you are asking for a bond to make infrastructure improvements in schools, and let's say that this passes, then wouldn't that money go to all schools, regardless of the type of school? Or will the bond have to stipulate for the type of school the funds are for?