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June 28, 2002

Through Many, One

Kevin of LeanLeft.com argues that the problem with vouchers is that the particular schools will teach only one kind of morality. "if one type, and one type only, of morality is taught at a religious school, and that school receives state moneys, then how can it be argued that the state is not advancing that particular morality?"

I think the answer is that in society at large, many different viewpoints will ultimately be supported-- to focus on the micro-scale of one school ignores the macro scale of the diversity of moral trainings that would be supported. An analogous issue was the controversy at the Supreme Court a few years ago over student fees. Conservative students argued that they were unconstitutional, since they were supporting organizations with narrow political agendas. But the Supreme Court said that since multiple student groups with a wide diversity of viewpoints could apply for the funds, it didn't matter that any one particular group had a specific political agenda as long as the distribution of funds was neutral. See Justice Kennedy's majority opinion and the background page on the whole controversy.
...But we don't have to even speculate on this principle. Churches receive tax-deductible contributions, meaning taxpayers subsidize their funding. Federal student loans and grants fund attendance at religious colleges. Nothing is new about funding religious schools, other than the age of the children.
...Which is significant, since those are ideologically vulnerable years, but as I noted with Leo, that cuts against mandatory public schools as much as against religious schools. It is hard to see how giving parents a choice between public schools and the religious school of their choice really violates anyone's rights. And since that money could go to a muslim school as easily as a Jewish Yeshiva, the government is not advancing any one belief system.

Posted by Nathan at June 28, 2002 10:50 PM


I see what you are saying, but it is alleged that the program in question was designed to funnel money to the Catholic school system. If that is the case, then doesn't the structure of the program make it unconstitutional? If that particular program does not allow for the support of a wide range of value structures, then, again, is not that particular program advancing only one set of values?

Posted by: kevin at June 29, 2002 02:14 PM

One more point:
In theory, the funds could go to, say, a Muslim school. However, if their are nothing but, say, Evangelical schools in the area, then it is obvious that the money is only going to go Evangelical schools. I think this is different than school clubs. All setting up a school club requires is students. Setting up a school requires a good bit of capital - human and otherwise. The barrier to entry is much higher for setting up a school, so I do not think the analogy holds.

Posted by: kevin at June 29, 2002 02:28 PM

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