Bigoted Laws are the Last Hope of the School Monopolist

crying-child.gifSo the Utah voucher bill sailed through that state’s Senate and all indications are that it will be signed by the Governor.

So what do the Monopolists do when they lose a legislative battle? Do they offer a good-natured congratulations to their opponents and hope that all turns out for the best? Do they console themselves by saying “Oh well, at least there are 49 other states where there is no universal school choice for parents?”

No, of course not. It looks like they’re about to sue. If the lawsuit goes forward, it would have to be argued on the basis of Utah’s “Blaine Amendment,” since the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that vouchers are constitutional. The thing about Blaine Amendments is that they are a manifestation of anti-religious—and particularly anti-Catholic—bigotry, not merely in effect, but in intent. In the 19th Century, as Catholic immigrants poured into the U.S., the Protestant establishment and the nativist “Know-Nothings” were busily figuring out ways to “Americanize” them by replacing their “popish” faith. Needless to say, this is one of the uglier chapters in our history. (Click here to read about the Philadelphia Bible Riots.)

Back to the 21st Century. Today we are more enlightened and we claim to reject anti-religious bigotry. But the Utah lawsuit, if it goes forward, would put that to the test. It would abolish a parent’s duly enacted right to choose only because the choice they make might be religious. Proponents of this atrocity would claim that this is not bigoted; it’s faithful to the principle of seperation of church and state.

This is palpable nonsense. Consider these questions:

  • Under school choice, would an atheist parent be allowed to send their child to a secular school? (Yes)
  • Would a Jewish parent be able to send their child to a Jewish school? (Yes)
  • Would a parent be allowed to send their child to a school that taught many religions in a comparative way? (Yes)
  • Finally, would any parent have to send their child to any school that was out of line with their religious beliefs? (No.) (Interestingly, though, it’s arguable schools that public school monopoly actually fails this test.)

My point is to make obvious what should already be blindingly clear: School Choice is just a choice. In terms of values, it imposes nothing on anyone. Parents make the decision and the money follows the child to school whether that school is religious or not.

It makes me tremble for my country to reflect on the fact that so many people cannot understand that freedom of choice is a core American value.

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