SCOTUS is putting the government back in the business of funding religious education

(RNS) – On Tuesday (June 21), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on what might seem like a unique local question: When Maine gives vouchers to students in small rural villages without a private school to go to private schools, let him rule. religious schools?

Carson v. The machine decision, in fact, can predict a return to a deplorable combination of coercive Christianity and public dollars.

Judgment 6-3 states that states that provide money to private schools (in places in Maine, in places that are too far away to support public schools) will now have to allow religious schools to participate in these programs. Earlier, Judge Stephen Breyer wrote in Carson’s dissent that the court has ruled that states can subsidize a student to attend a religious school, but “the key word is ‘may’.”

Breyer continues to rhetorically ask, “What happens when ‘can’ becomes ‘should’?”


LINKED: The Supreme Court says “yes” to public funds in religious schools in the case of Maine, but the conclusions can go beyond that.


Well, in Maine alone, it means that taxpayers of all faith and belief systems will be forced to fund a Christian school whose “educational goals” include: then. To follow Christ as Lord of his life. ”

Mainer Hindus, Jews, and atheists will pay for a school that offers “Biblically Integrated Education,” where the Bible is used in all subjects, including math and science. Mainers will also fund schools that actively discriminate against state citizens because some religious schools have policies to deny enrollment to LGBTQ + students.

In oral arguments, Judge Elena Kagan identified Maine’s program as “small” and “cabineted,” but in the opinion of the majority of Justice General John Roberts, the court opened the door to public funding for sectarian religious education in any field.

Americans should not be forced to pay for their hatred. The Carson ruling allows schools that expressly discriminate against taxpayers in a state to force them to pay for tuition, both in teacher recruitment and in student admissions, against LGBTQ people, among others. The Supreme Court has again focused Protestant Christianity as normative and acceptable, even if it has divided and diminished some Americans.

I say “again” because Christianity is closely tied to the legal and social infrastructure of the United States. For 150 years, from 1819 to 1969, “boarding schools in India” and other federally funded missionary Christian work were done to “save man and kill the Indian.”

A memorial in honor of dozens of indigenous children who died at a nearby boarding school more than a century ago is under a tree in a public park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on July 1, 2021. The U.S. Department of the Interior released a report on May 11, 2022, about the past government’s oversight of Native American boarding schools. (AP Photo / Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

As recently documented in an extensive report by the Department of the Interior, “India’s reserves were divided among major religious denominations” —that is, Christian denominations — which, in pursuit of federal dollars and the strength of the U.S. military, used violence. Take children from America, Alaska and Hawaii from the family and indoctrinate them in the Christian religion and “civilized” culture.

The children were called “Christian names”, had their hair cut and forced to adopt Christianity, and were housed in schools that banned them from speaking Indian languages ​​or engaging in the historical and cultural practices of their families. Interior investigations revealed the graves of 53 boarding schools, where hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans were buried – many secretly and many after abuse by federal-funded missionaries.

The report, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who was the first native to hold office, forced the U.S. to recognize a cultural genocide, aided and abetted by religious authorities paid with federal tax dollars.

As I have shown in my academic work, Christian privilege interacts with other cultural privileges and norms, such as racism and heterosexual privileges, to create indirect models of benefit and harm. In Indian schools, Christianity was used to beat the Indian child. Now she is ready to overcome the gay, trans and intersex of the new generation of children.

There is nothing wrong with teaching about religion in public and publicly funded schools. Judge Thomas Clark, 60 years ago in Abington v. Written by Schempp, he was right: Coercive religious practices do not apply in public schools, but “one’s education is not complete without an examination of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship. the advancement of civilization. ‘


LINKED: Catholic and Protestant groups support the commission on boarding school policy in India


The new Supreme Court ruling, on the other hand, is a huge misstep. In form and substance, religion is the acceptance of sectarian education that elevates religion with social power, Christianity above all others.

A few weeks apart, the Indian boarding school report and the new Supreme Court ruling are another vivid illustration of the real moral choice that the U.S. is currently facing on so many issues: learning or repeating history.

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