Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Louisiana's new voucher program and religious freedom

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is hearing from all sides regarding a new law he signed that slaps a blow to public education in the state by allowing about half the state’s students to ditch their public schools and divert the tax dollars away from those public schools and toward the religious private schools they attend.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (Getty Images photo)

Criticism is, of course, coming in from public educators, but the head of the Interfaith Alliance called the program “bad for religious freedom” in an open letter to the governor today:

Let me be clear: I am not appalled that a Christian school is teaching its students that God created the Earth. Children in my church learn that every Sunday. I am appalled that these schools are teaching theology as science; and they’re doing so with government money, my tax dollars. Teaching the theology of Creationism is part of the mission of religious schools, and religious education more broadly—I defend with my life’s work their right to teach future generations about their faith. But they should not receive financial support from our government to do so.

The letter’s writer, C. Welton Gaddy, is not only the alliance’s president, but he’s also a baptist minister at a church in Louisiana. He claims the use of tax dollars to fund religious education violates the First Amendment and will ultimately be the destruction of faith-based schools in Louisiana:

What often gets lost in the conversation around school vouchers is the negative impact they can have on religious schools. In the short term, having new revenue streams is of course helpful to private schools, but the fact is that with government money comes government regulation, which can open religious schools up to all kinds of threats to their autonomy that it is in religion’s best interest to avoid.

The letter ultimately calls into question the doctrines of Young Earth Creationism that are reportedly being taught at these religious schools in Louisiana. These doctrines hold that the Earth is no more than about 10,000 years old. Although these doctrines may have religious value, scientists in the world these Louisiana students will soon enter laugh at the ideas.

From a Christian standpoint, if God is truth (see some quotes from the Bible on BibleGateway.com if you would like to understand where Christians, including Gov Jindal, should stand), then the facts, including evolution, the fossil record, and carbon dating to billions, not thousands, of years, must be compatible with that truth.

I wrote more than a dozen years ago, if the facts are not compatible with your doctrines, then no matter how much you want to hold onto those doctrines, they are not the truth. God’s not trying to teach lies, I’m pretty sure, so God’s not going to use people who misstate facts intentionally to spread the love he taught us to share with each other.

As Rev. Gaddy puts it, in the letter reprinted in the Washington Post,

… [R]ight now, our nation is at a place in history in which all of us truly need to learn how to get along with each other and work together for the good of our nation despite our differences in religion, ethnicity, race, and income. Besides preparing our children and young people to be proficient in math, science, grammar, thinking, and communication skills, public education has no greater role than enabling us to work and walk together despite obvious diversity. Many of the private schools in Louisiana that you are supporting with millions of dollars of vouchers are honestly saying upfront that their mission is sectarian education that promotes one faith over another and makes no effort to commend the common good.

Photo: NEW ORLEANS—Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks to delegates at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, April 9, 2010. Many of the Republican Party’s most prominent members spoke at the conference, which ran from April 8–11. (Cheryl Gerber/Getty Images)

Paul Katulahttps://news.schoolsdo.org
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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