“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
This is a quote from one of our most celebrated Founding Fathers, but that seems to be lost on conservatives in Louisiana.
Governor Bobby Jindal signed an education bill that would provide government vouchers to place students in religious schools. Republicans initially approved of this idea, and voted for it, until they realized that vouchers would also be used to send Muslim children to Islamic schools as well. In other words, Republicans only want taxpayer dollars to be used to increase attendance to Christian schools.
Two Republican members of the state legislature, Rep. Valarie Hodges and Rep. Kenneth Havard, now oppose the bill because it doesn’t solely support what they claim to be the religion of the Founding Fathers.
“￼I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” Hodges said. “Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion. We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”
Rep. Kenneth Havard withdrew his support for the bill last month upon making the same realization, saying that he refuses to explain to his constituents why he voted for the law in the first place.
The point here is that Republicans only support funding religious schools that teach Christianity. The problem with this sentiment is that it totally violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. Government is not supposed to make laws that favor one religion. Laws either benefit all religions or none of them. But by only supporting funding for Christian schools, Republicans are blatantly violating Constitutional law.
Republicans are also demonstrating how desperate they are to keep Christianity as they see it, afloat in the modern world. It only gives Benjamin Franklin’s astute words above more importance. Forcing taxpayers to fund tuition to private Christian schools is wrong, and violates the religious freedom of countless Americans who practice other religions. The law as it currently stands, is broad enough to allow vouchers to any religious school, which to be fair, is Constitutionally sound since the law doesn’t exclude or discriminate against a certain religion. But if many Republicans have their way, the law would only apply to Christian schools, and that would in fact, be unconstitutional. One Islamic school has already been pressured to withdraw its request for vouchers in the wake of Republican complaints. So even if the law remains as is, as long as other religious schools are denied their equal right to receive vouchers, the law is a bad one. If Republicans really think Christianity can stand on its own, they shouldn’t have a problem with being fair to other religions. But clearly, Republicans believe that the only way their brand of Christianity can survive is if government and taxpayer money supports it. And in Franklin’s eyes, that makes it a “bad one.”