Creationism and taxes in Louisiana

In 1785, the commonwealth of Virginia considered a bill that would fund “teachers of the Christian Religion.” James Madison, who … Continued

In 1785, the commonwealth of Virginia considered a bill that would fund “teachers of the Christian Religion.” James Madison, who as one of our founding fathers was a key architect of our Constitution, wrote that “it is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes acceptable to him.”

Put another way: funding, participating in and sending our children to religious education programs is the right and responsibility of faith communities, clergy and parents as they see fit. It’s not our government’s purview.

Every American has the right to choose or choose not to fund or participate in religious education.

Recently, the organization over which I preside joined an amicus brief asserting the same basic argument that Madison did more than 225 years ago.

The brief, submitted on behalf of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the ACLU, the ACLU of Louisiana and Interfaith Alliance, challenges Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s school voucher program on the grounds that the program violates religious freedom. It argues that the scheme will redirect taxpayer dollars intended for public schools to private schools who will use the funds to provide a religion-based education.

Governor Jindal’s program, as I’ve written before, is bad for religious freedom and bad for public education.

Under the program, tax dollars will fund private schools and curricula infused with theology at every level and across subject matters. Although not all private schools teach from a religious curriculum, nearly every private school available to Louisiana students is a religious school.

For example, Louisianans’ tax dollars will fund private schools that will teach our children from textbooks that assert evolution does not exist, and support their claim with “real” evidence of the fabled Loch Ness Monster. Since the science of evolution teaches that dinosaurs and man did not inhabit the earth simultaneously, the existence of “Nessie,” clearly a dinosaur, “debunks” evolution:

“Many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis …God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all.

As a pastor and resident of Louisiana, this issue is not merely philosophical – it’s personal.

Let me be clear: I am not bothered or appalled by a Christian school teaching its students that God created the Earth. Indeed, children in my church learn that every Sunday.

What appalls me is that schools are teaching theology as science; and they’re doing so with government money – with my tax dollars.

With my life’s work, I have defended the right of religious schools and institutions to teach future generations about their faith – including the theology of Creationism. However, they should not receive financial support from the government to do so.

What is often lost in this debate is the harm school vouchers cause to religion. School vouchers create competition between religious groups for government funds, putting the government in a position to implicitly express preference of one religion over another – a fundamental problem with any voucher program.

Louisiana State Representative Valarie Hodges’ reasons for changing her position from one of support to one of opposition to the program is a perfect example of this inherent problem with vouchers.

I’ve written before that I wish I could have celebrated her change of heart, but rather than recognizing how harmful this program is to religious freedom, she changed her position because she realized that Muslim groups would be eligible for funding alongside Christian organizations.

In short, Louisiana’s program represents everything that is wrong with school vouchers and threatens the integrity of both religion and government.

That is why Interfaith Alliance joined the amicus brief, and why as a Baptist pastor in Louisiana I have been an outspoken opponent of the program.

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy is president of Interfaith Alliance, and serves as Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana.

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  • itsthedax

    Denying children the best possible education, and teaching them to remain ignorant and superstitious, is a form of child abuse.

  • GeneGarman

    Tax money is involuntarily forced from the public and is for public controled and public owned institutions or services–to suggest otherwise is nonsense. To assert American tax payers can be compelled to support everyones’s private institutions is contrary to reason and law. The issue of using coerced public tax money for the support of private religion institutions is doubly ridiculous because the issue and the argument was setteled by our Founding Fathers and First Congress from the beginning of our nation: (1) as drafted in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention by the Founding Fathers and ratified by the states in 1788, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” Art. 6., Sec. 3., and (2) as amended into law (First Amendment) by the First Congress in 1789 and added to the Constitution, as ratified by the states, “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” A few years later, c. 1817, James Madison commented, “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history,” William and Mary Quarterly 3:555 and The Papers of James Madison Digital Edition, Retirement Series, Volume 1 (4 March 1817–31 January 1820). Religion schools and institutions are not owned by the public and have no constitutional right to coerced public tax money. The Supreme Court has already said, “what is directly proibited cannot be indirectly permitted, lest the establishment clause become a mockery.” In the USA religion is to be supported voluntarily and no person’s religion is above the law. Read the religion commandments in the Constitution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb7SbUWw9dM .

  • leibowde84

    Public money should NEVER get into the hands of religious based organizations PERIOD. I don’t even understand why this is an issue. If you want your children to get a religious education, PAY FOR IT … or teach them yourself, or maybe just join a church and let the priests do the work. Why should taxpayers who may, in fact, despise religious institutions have to donate money to those institutions? Especially when there is no acknowledged “good” in providing religiously centered education to children.