Public School Bureaucrats Want to Choose Your Child’s Religion

Public School Bureaucrats Want to Choose Your Child’s Religion

The Supreme Court ruled on June 21 that state education budgets can’t discriminate against Christian schools — but the most significant aspect of the case came more than six months earlier. In a revealing exchange during the oral arguments of Carson v. Makin last December 8, an attorney for the state of Maine essentially confessed that the government wants to discriminate based on religion, because politicians have “values they want to instill” in public schoolchildren. Multiple Supreme Court justices then explained precisely how they wish to discriminate against traditional Christian and religious believers.

The state of Maine maintains public high schools in fewer than half of its school districts. Instead, Maine’s Town Tuitioning Program allows parents in rural districts without a public school to send their children to a neighboring public school district or to a private school of their choice. But the state began excluding “sectarian” (read: religious) schools from the program in 1981. As we shall see, the state seemed most interested in excluding religious schools, because it wishes to teach religious principles of its own.

Carson v. Makin

Chief Deputy Attorney General Christopher Taub, who represented Maine at the Supreme Court, defended the religious exclusion on the grounds that “Maine has determined that, as a matter of public policy, public education should be religiously neutral.” But the court’s conservatives immediately ripped through his façade.

Justice Samuel Alito asked Taub if there were a church that didn’t “really have any dogma,” but its “salient religious beliefs are that all people are created equal and that nobody should be subjected to any form of invidious discrimination … and that everybody has an obligation to make contributions to the community and engage in charitable work.” Taub replied, “That would be very close to a public school. Public schools often have a set of values that they want to instill: public service, be kind to others, be generous.”

“You really are discriminating on the basis of religious belief,” replied Alito, who said he had outlined the basic beliefs of the Unitarian Universalists. What Taub really wants, Alito exposed, is to choose which religious beliefs that state will allow schools to inculcate in children: “That religious community … can have a school that inculcates students with their beliefs, because those are okay religious beliefs, but other religious beliefs, no.”

“Unless you can say that you would treat a Unitarian school the same as a Christian school, or an Orthodox Jewish school, or a Catholic school, then I think you’ve got a problem of discrimination among religious groups,” Alito concluded.

Justice Neil Gorsuch agreed during arguments that the law would “discriminate against minority religious viewpoints” and “favor religions that are more watered down,” churches that teach “what a bureaucrat in Bangor might say.”

We should begin by listening to what one bureaucrat in Bangor did say: “Public schools often have a set of values that they want to instill,” said Taub. Public school officials see teaching “values” — their values — as part of their mandate for your child.

Some of the justices exposed which beliefs they want taught, and which they want excluded. Retiring Justice Stephen Breyer groused that Bangor Christian Schools and Temple Academy “have admissions policies that allow them to deny enrollment to students based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion, and both schools require their teachers to be born-again Christians.” That is, Christian schools require their teachers to believe the faith and do not allow students to rebel against it openly.

“Legislators did not want Maine taxpayers to pay for these religiously based practices — practices not universally endorsed by all citizens of the [s]tate — for fear that doing so would cause a significant number of Maine citizens discomfort or displeasure.” He then cited a Maine senator who opposed funding religious schools, because “public funds could be used to teach intolerant religious views.” Likewise in her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor called it “irrational” and “perverse” for the Supreme Court to “protect against discrimination of one kind” while requiring Maine “to fund what many of its citizens believe to be discrimination of other kinds.”

In other words: You’re intolerant; that’s why we’re excluding you. But if the government is giving out a benefit to everyone except Christians — while forcing Christians to pay for it with their taxes — who’s discriminating against whom?

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