Sunday, September 27, 2020
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Over anti-LGBT policy, a school loses voucher funds

In what may have been an open-and-shut case, a Maryland state education panel voted unanimously on October 11 to rescind taxpayer-funded vouchers from a Lutheran school because the school’s policies reserve the right to refuse admission to homosexual students, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Reformation Wall in Geneva (iStock).
Martin Luther’s Reformation movement began on Oct. 31, 1517, 500 years ago this month.

Liz Bowie in the Sun quotes the handbook for Trinity Lutheran School in Joppa as saying the school reserves the right to refuse admission or discontinue the enrollment of any student

“who is living in, condoning or practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principals of the school.”

And since the BOOST advisory board requires schools to have a policy that doesn’t allow them to deny admission based on sexual orientation, among other protected categories, they voted not to continue sending the school money from the state’s voucher program, known as BOOST. About a dozen private schools have decided not to take vouchers because of similar policies regarding sexual orientation.

The Sun (and Google) say the handbook was available here, but when we checked, the web server for Trinity Lutheran says the PDF file was no longer found, as of this morning.

Google, being the giant that it is, cached the page before Trinity took it down, which we have loaded here, as an unformatted Web page that Google says was originally cached from the Trinity Lutheran site, enabling us to run this story based on confirmation of the report. (Ms Bowie reported that the school wouldn’t return her calls requesting comment, and if they won’t call the Sun back, I don’t imagine I would have any better luck.)

Ms Bowie quoted the handbook correctly based on this Google-cached document, except for misspelling principles, but whether or not this constitutes “discrimination based on a protected category” takes what Trinity says a little out of context. Based on what Google says the handbook says, Trinity’s basis isn’t to discriminate against anyone but to practice its own religious beliefs:

On those occasions in which the atmosphere or conduct, inside or outside the school, is counter to or in opposition to the Biblical lifestyle the school teaches, the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, living in, condoning, or practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices; or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principles of the school. (Leviticus 20: 13a, Romans 1:27, Matthew 19:4-6). As such, the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student of a same sex marriage or relationship.

Martin Luther was in favor of education. In fact, he deeply influenced the way schools developed in Germany. Because of Luther’s concern for education, he and his fellow reformers … began reform of education before reform of the church … developed new curricula and pedagogies that shaped both schools and universities … favored adult education as well as the education of the “traditional” student … facilitated the education of international students … advocated schools for both boys and girls

While Luther clearly believed in the effectual power of the preached Word, he also believed that preachers needed to be taught who and what to preach. What his methods show us is that he put most of his effort into education. Trinity Lutheran follows in this Biblical heritage with their church and school.

The Sacred Scriptures teach that in the beginning the blessed Trinity instituted marriage to be the life-long union of one man and one woman (Gen 2:24, Matt 19:4-6), to be held in honor by all and kept pure (Heb 13:4, 1 Thess 4:2-5). God’s Word assures us that each time one man and one woman join themselves together in the union of marriage commitment and relationship, God himself has joined them as one. It is important to see that marriage is not only a grace-filled institution of the church, but part of the very fabric of God’s creation, which extends to every time and place on earth and includes every man and woman who are joined together in this "one flesh" commitment and bond. Marriage is created by God and is not simply a social contract or convenience.

You can argue about whether Trinity’s interpretation of Holy Scripture is accurate, but what you can’t do is deny the school the right to practice its religion as they wish. That right is guaranteed in our Constitution.

For the record, it would be impossible to follow the Bible literally, so some interpretation is required. And in a pluralistic society, much of it has to be sacrificed in the name of peace, love, and harmony. But if a non-taxpayer-supported school doesn’t wish to have a pluralistic student body, at least with respect to homosexuality, then that is its right.

And this is ultimately why I am opposed to taxpayer-funded private schools: Private schools, if they are true to their convictions, probably don’t want the money, because taxpayer money has strings attached. I will fight for Trinity’s right to bar homosexual students until the day I die, and I will fight to allow private schools to teach students in a way that is consistent with their beliefs about what makes a student a good citizen. After all, since the school isn’t getting any of my money, I’ve got no “skin in the game.”

But sending my tax dollars to that school changes everything in the preceding paragraph. At the conclusion of the argument, I can’t support sending public funds to private schools. If we send money, the government automatically dictates to that school how they should practice their religion, and that violates what I know about the First Amendment.

Kudos to Trinity for standing true to their beliefs! But let’s talk about what those passages in the Bible really teach us Christians. Relying on Leviticus will get you into trouble, so that might not be the best rabbit to pull out of your hat: The passage cited (Leviticus 20:13a) commands followers to put adulterers to death, for instance.

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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