Should religious schools be allowed to receive government money? | The Tylt

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Should religious schools be allowed to receive government money?
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As Congressional Republicans gear up for hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the judges' past rulings are being reexamined. On one hot-button topic, Kavanaugh believes religious schools should be allowed to receive government funds. Critics say allowing religious organizations to receive federal funding dangerously blurs the lines between church and state. But religious supporters argue that as long as the school is not discriminatory, it shouldn't matter. What do you think?

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Kavanaugh's critics and supporters alike are interested in how a potential Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh would rule on Blaine Amendment cases. Forbes explains what these 19th-century policies are.

Blaine Amendments are provisions in 38 state constitutions that bar public aid to religious organizations. They get their name from James G. Blaine, a congressman and later senator and presidential nominee from Maine who unsuccessfully attempted to amend the U.S. constitution in 1875 to include “anti-aid” language onto the end of the first amendment. Where he failed at the federal level, he and his ideological fellow travelers were successful at the state level. As a result, Blaine Amendments frequently act as state-level barriers against school choice.
It is important to note that while their language might look harmless in today’s light, at their inception, Blaine Amendments were designed to try and stamp out Catholic schools. Their use of the word “sect” or “sectarian” is the tell. Public schools at that time were nominally Protestant, with students singing hymns and reading the King James Bible in class. That was “nonsectarian” instruction. “Sectarian” meant Catholic. Interestingly, in the court’s recent 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the court ruled that states have a duty “not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.” I'm no lawyer, but to me, Blaine Amendments do just that.

While there are no pending Supreme Court cases on the docket dealing with Blaine Amendments, there is currently a great deal of momentum to change them. 

The Supreme Court has already begun to chip away at Blaine Amendments. In another 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled last year in favor of Trinity Lutheran, a church in Columbia, Missouri that wanted to repave its preschool’s playground with recycled tires as part of the state’s scrap tire recycling program. Trinity was denied, but the Supreme Court overruled the state’s decision, arguing that “denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion.”
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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is one of the most visible champions of abolishing Blaine Amendments and relaxing the rules for allowing religious schools to receive government funding.

Ms. DeVos has been among the most vocal critics of the legal prohibitions on parochial school vouchers. In a speech to leaders of religious schools this year, she called the prohibitions — born out of anti-Catholicism — “the last acceptable prejudice” that “should be assigned to the ash heap of history.”
Ms. DeVos has stalled in her efforts to create a $1 billion school voucher program, but after the Trinity decision, she has moved to loosen regulations that exclude religious colleges from participating in federal aid programs.
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In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for a religious preschool to be denied access to taxpayer-funded grants for playgrounds. In the case, Trinity Lutheran Church vs. Comer, the court ruled grants could not be withheld solely because of the school's "avowedly religious character." However, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, arguing the ruling set a dangerous precedent. Per NPR:

Sotomayor, who attended parochial schools during her childhood, took the unusual step of dissenting orally from the bench. She called the majority opinion "radical," declaring that it "profoundly changes" the relationship between church and state "by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church."
The nation's history, she maintained, guarantees the free exercise of religion, "to choose for ourselves whether to believe and how to worship," without allowing the government to be part of that religious process. "The Court today blinds itself to the outcome this history requires and leads us instead to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment."
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When asked about how they feel about the possibility of Brett Kavanaugh sitting on the Supreme Court, leaders within teachers unions specifically point to his support for relaxing restrictions on federal funding. Per the Washington Post: 

“Judge Kavanaugh can’t be trusted to protect the interests of students and educators,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest union. Her reasons included the judge’s support for “rulings and legal theories that justify allowing public money being funneled into religious institutions.”
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But supporters for relaxing the restrictions on federal funding argue that what this issue boils down to is what's best for students. Dale Chu writes for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute:

If we’re serious about educational equity, it seems to me that we need to get past religion in schools as a nonstarter. If a private school is effective at helping students become academically proficient, knowledgeable, and self-driven, why does it suddenly become problematic when that same school also includes prayer or religious texts? After all, public schools that teach meditation or character skills are pursuing similar aims in developing students’ emotional intelligence. If a school is effective, regardless of whether it’s public or private, shouldn’t we do everything we can to ensure more kids are in the effective ones?
FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Should religious schools be allowed to receive government money?
#MoreMoneyForSchools
A festive crown for the winner
#SplitChurchAndState