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Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools 
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Post Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
Chapter 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools


Please use this thread for posting about Chapter 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools. Or, if you prefer, create your own threads. ::171

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 4/12/07 11:17 am



Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:14 am
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
I had intended to read some cases to get this chapter started, but I had my last wisdom tooth pulled last night and haven't been able to concentrate. (I hope my lack of concentration is not due to my being wisdomless.::04 )

Anyway, I am ill-prepared to make any kind of complete argument but I figured I would get the ball rolling. The reason I made such a fuss about Fourteenth Amendment incorporation was largely because of this chapter. Incorporation occurred without ceremony, without justification and, most importantly, without explanation; it just happened. George, earlier, made a salient point that it is appropriate that citizens from various states, as far as the First Amendment is concerned, are equally protected. And for the most part, I concur.

But for some reason, incorporation with regard to the states' school systems doesn't sit well with me. In fact, I think federal involvement in state funds directed at education is unwise, and is often reflected in SCOTUS's demonstrated reluctance to get involved in local district decisions. States make many decisions regarding their educational systems, and these decisions are usually independent of federal involvement. That is why state to state, even district to district, school systems can radically vary. It is not unusual for new parents to choose residences based on the school systems offered. Townships and states make individual choices (through the polls) on how much they wish to spend to support those schools. And districts either flourish or suffer because of those voting choices. For a federal court to remove from the states the power to decide how and where they spend their tax dollars, particularly in many of the gray area cases, seems to me to be an egregious overstepping of federal power. And trust me, I would not have been an anti-Federalist.

As I said I have to read the caselaw to decide if my gut instinct can be legally and constitutionally supported. And I am not claiming that the precedent that has been set can be or should be reversed. I think it is good that public monies are not funneled to religious schools. But for those who don't agree, I think perhaps their beef may be justified



Fri May 25, 2007 3:13 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
I'm annoyed that government funds go to parochial schools. From this non-lawyer's perspective, that government support of religion violates the First Amendment. As a consequence, more students are exposed to religious ideas and the churches can dedicate other funds to religious purposes. Since a vast majority of private schools in the US are Catholic, school vouchers and other programs assisting private schools are concentrated on particular religious beliefs.

Irishrosem, I don't understand the distinction you're implying between school policies and other state & local government issues. Why wouldn't the 1st and 14th amendments apply?

When reading about these close Supreme Court decisions, it's important to remember that the presence of Roberts and Alito make the Court more conservative now than when the book was written. The views of O'Connor, which Haiman quotes at length, are less relevant.

On page 83, does the "one-subject rule" refer to the restriction that a law should only cover one subject?




Sun Jun 03, 2007 10:10 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
I don't have my book on me right now. When I read the quote you're referring to, I'll answer your question, if I can.

Julian, I didn't think I was going to get any resistance to my above statements. I'm glad you jumped in.

I agree that government money to private schools violates the First Amendment. And with incorporation of the Fourteenth Amendment the violation would hold for states as well as Congress. I just don't necessarily think that the federal government should be in the business of making these decisions for states.

I see public education as predominantly and almost wholly a state responsibility. Fiscally and logistically it is the state's responsibility to provide free public education. Where the responsibility lies, the power should also lie. It often becomes a problem when power and responsibility become skewed, where one entity holds the power, while the other entity holds the responsibility. The exercise of such power by the federal government on the states is warranted where civil rights are at issue. But I'm not sure that utilizing tax dollars to help support the education of the state's children at private schools, even sectarian private schools, equates to an egregious breach of civil rights, if a state decides to do so. And likewise, if a state decides its taxes should not be used to support private schools, the federal courts should, again, have no say. I know a position like this would therefore hold for all federal involvement in all states' choices to include religion in their government. But for some reason the argument seems to stand on more solid ground for me when talking about state schools. (And, yes, I know that's not reasonable.) Either way, I think anti-incorporationists have a legitimate gripe with Fourteenth Amendment incorporation of establishment (and therefore free exercise), if they so choose. It's never been adequately explained or justified, as far as I can see. And one result is federal regulation in one of the very institutions where there should be no such regulation, state-provided public education.




Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:47 am
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
While it's certainly true that public education is chiefly a state responsibility, I don't think that means we can ignore the connection between funding decisions and the establishment clause. If it is wrong for a school district to impose religion by mandating the recitation of a prayer at the beginning of the school day, it also ought to be wrong for a school district to impose religion by diverting taxpayers' dollars to religious institutions. So I don't think anti-incorporationists have a stronger argument for state funding of religious schools than they have for state requirements for religious exercises.

I also think, although it's beyond the scope of this discussion, it's bad policy for public institutions to divert public money to private institutions as a general principle. Tax dollars should go to public institutions, not private ones. In my view, privatizing the public school system will have disastrous consequences.

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:28 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
Garicker: So I don't think anti-incorporationists have a stronger argument for state funding of religious schools than they have for state requirements for religious exercises.

No I didn't mean to argue that. Only, the regulation of state taxes by the federal government is a more egregious overreaching of federal power in the context of public education. Or so it seems to me. If an anti-incoporationist wished to argue that incorporation should not necessarily apply to the religion clauses of the First Amendment, I think their most powerful argument would be in the federal regulation of state-raised tax dollars for public schools.

garicker: In my view, privatizing the public school system will have disastrous consequences.

I agree. And so you and I could vote in our states against state subsidies for private schools, and against politicians who support those subsidies. There are very few government institutions that I feel should be free of the overarching reach of the federal government, education is one such institution. One of the states' few remaining powers is in how they choose to educate their children; for me, it should have remained a state decision. Incorporation, without explanation or justification, removed much of that financial decision from the states



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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
Rose: No I didn't mean to argue that. Only, the regulation of state taxes by the federal government is a more egregious overreaching of federal power in the context of public education. Or so it seems to me. If an anti-incoporationist wished to argue that incorporation should not necessarily apply to the religion clauses of the First Amendment, I think their most powerful argument would be in the federal regulation of state-raised tax dollars for public schools.

Would you apply the same rationale to the desegregation of schools?

My point is that, although I agree in principle about state and local control of education, I don't see that as an impediment to applying fundamental protections. There's no good reason to allow for incorporation of other protections but not allow it for the religion clauses. States generally should have the right to spend their educational dollars as they see fit. But they should not have the right to spend those dollars to benefit religious institutions.

Suppose a state school system decided to spend its tax dollars to place monuments of the 10 Commandments on each school campus under their jurisdiction. The argument, I'm sure, would be that this is not a religious exercise but is intended for the moral instruction of school children and as a recognition of our historical heritage. If I'm reading you correctly, the state's right to spend its educational tax dollars as it sees fit would trump the Bill of Rights. I don't think that's your intention, but it seems implicit in your argument.

The other danger I see in this line of reasoning is that once you open that door, there will be a flood of efforts at the state and local level to find other ways to entangle public education with religion. Unfortunately, these days the Supreme Court seems to be the last place that recognizes the wall of separation at all, and even there, the recognitions seems to be fading.

This isn't a slippery slope. It's a cliff. At least, that's my view of it.

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Tue Jun 05, 2007 8:00 am
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
garicker: Would you apply the same rationale to the desegregation of schools?

Absolutely not. Brown v. Board of Education appealed directly to the Fourteenth Amendment. I don't have a problem with the Fourteenth Amendment or the protections to the individual it provides. I am solely talking about the unexplained, and perhaps unquestioned, incorporation of the Fourteenth Amendment into the Bill of Rights



Tue Jun 05, 2007 11:58 am
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
JtA: On page 83, does the "one-subject rule" refer to the restriction that a law should only cover one subject?

Yes,



Tue Jun 05, 2007 12:35 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
I don't have strong opinions about state vs. federal power or about legal philosophies. The real-world consequences of judicial decisions matter a lot more to me. The only exceptions occur when judges disregard the law, or are inconsistent with their past decisions, to justify an outcome they want to reach.

For that matter, arguments about state rights remind me of Southern racists claiming that the US government couldn't challenge laws discriminating against blacks. Not that I'm accusing anyone here of holding such views, but that's my association (solely from reading history, since I'm not that old).




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Post Re: Ch. 5: Public Funding of Religious Schools
Rosemary: No. More what I am saying is that many of the Bill of Rights were written to protect the states from federal involvement. The states are supposed to have decision-making powers free from federal encroachment. So states rights to spend educational dollars as they see fit does not trump the Bill of Rights, they're actually protected by the Bill of Rights. Obviously, after the Civil War and the Fourteenth Amendment much of that power was taken. But I'm not sure if those powers should include how a state utilizes its own tax dollars, particularly with regard to education. If the federal government, through SCOTUS, wants to eliminate those rights, I think we need a better explanation than we got.

Well, SCOTUS is sometimes cryptic in reaching its decisions. I think Roe v Wade is a classic example, though I have no complaint about the outcome.

Section one of the Fourteenth Amendment says: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I take that to mean several things. First, there is an explicit recognition of what had been implicit since the founding of the nation, that the citizens of the United States enjoy a kind of dual citizenship. We are citizens of the individual states in which we reside and also citizens of the nation. Second, there is the establishment of a new principle, that no state may pass or enforce laws that violate the rights guaranteed to a citizen of the nation without due process of law. Finally, that states are to regard all persons within their jurisdiction as being entitled to equal protection of the laws.

You may have a different interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment than I. To me it says the fundamental individual liberties guaranteed in the amendments contained within the Bill of Rights (I word it that way because I do recognize that some of the amendments dealt with states' rights and not individual rights) may not be abridged by the states.

At that point in the process, I think those rights had already been incorporated against the states. Now it took some decades for SCOTUS to begin to acknowledge the fact of incorporation. But I would argue that equal protection of the laws is a judicial fiction if individual states can encroach on those rights.

While I have no quarrel with the idea that individual states should have the right to control their educational budgets within constitutionally prescribed limits, I think the notion that such areas should be left entirely to the states is dangerous. One of the chief arguments in favor of segregated schools in the South was the notion of local autonomy and the right of local jurisdictions to control their educational systems.

I realize you have already said you have no problem with SCOTUS declaring segregated schools unconstitutional because such schools were inherently unequal, but I submit that the very same protections extended to blacks under that application of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment are part of the incorporation of fundamental individual rights already alluded to.

When it comes to establishment clause cases, I think part of the problem stems from SCOTUS's inability to find clarity on the issue. The court has tried to avoid the appearance of undue hostility to religion by muddying the water on these questions.

Now you and I both agree, I think, that ultimately the protection of individual rights is up to the citizenry acting through their elected representatives and through whatever other legal venues are open to them. However, the court's interpretation of the establishment clause has great importance because it's much harder to amend the Constitution than it is to pass a state law. I would be loathe to yield the sole power to determine what does and does not constitute establishment of religion to the states. I think by so doing we would create a situation in which one's religious rights -- both the right to free exercise and the right to be free of any government religious establishment -- would be in peril. It's very difficult to freely exercise one's rights of conscience in an environment in which the state obviously favors a particular sect or religious denomination.

It's all well and good to say the individual citizens of the state will have to be more diligent. But one of the most important features of our system is that we as individuals are protected from the tyranny of the majority. That protection, in large part, is due to the individual rights guaranteed us in the appropriate amendments included in the Bill of Rights and the incorporation of those rights by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Suppose a particular state decides to fully fund Christian schools but no others? Should SCOTUS have a right to say "no" to such an arrangement by declaring it unconstitutional? On what basis?

When it comes to the expenditure of educational tax dollars to establish or even support religions or religious enterprises, I think the rules need to be standard throughout the nation. I'm not comfortable ceding such powers to state governments.

Of course, I do live in Florida, after all. Maybe that explains it. ::204

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Wed Jun 06, 2007 10:26 am
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