JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / April 22, 1998 / 26 Nissan, 5758

Don Feder

Don Feder School-choice is a religious freedom issue

ON APRIL 29, the House is scheduled to debate a bill to provide 2,000 low-income scholarships in the District of Columbia. These stipends could be used to pay the tuition at private nonsectarian or religious schools. A similar measure passed the Senate last year.

The debate will focus on the fact that in a system of sinking standards, urban schools are the absolute dregs.

But there is another equally compelling consideration -- giving parents the ability to educate their children in schools that teach virtue would do much to advance the cause of religious freedom.

During his trip to Cuba, Pope John Paul II touched on this matter, when he declared that families "should be able to choose for their children the pedagogical method, the ethical and civic content and the religious inspiration which will enable them to receive an integral education."

Fidel Castro, who saw the Church as a threat to his hegemony, closed the nation's Catholic schools in the early 1960s. The liberal elite that controls American public education is as adverse to choice as the dictator who rules Cuba.

In America, religious liberty is based on the self-evident principle that families have a right to impart spiritual values to their children.

No one would deny that parents have a right to take their children to religious services, to celebrate religious holidays and to read the Bible in their homes. But the amount of time the average family devotes to this is minimal compared to the 35 hours a week that the public schools have their children as a captive audience.

Now, much of the school day is taken up with indoctrination in the creed of Rodham nation -- sex education, multiculturalism, ecology studies and gay sensitivity. Students are programmed in a worldview diametrically opposed to Judeo-Christian tradition.

One reason prayer was taken out of the schools in the early 1960s was to avoid a glaring contradiction -- children praying to the one God at the beginning of the school day and taught to worship other gods for the rest of the day.

Choice -- in the form of vouchers, scholarships or tax credits -- would give families the means to resist the onslaught of education theorists, activists and teachers union officials who dominate public schooling. That's why liberals resist the reform so fiercely.

On March 4, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Religious Liberty Amendment to the United States Constitution, providing equal treatment for religious and secular groups in the public arena.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the committee's ranking Democrat, warned, "The real import," of the amendment, "is to force the government to fund religious organizations in the same way it funds secular activities," with an ultimate goal of supporting school vouchers.

In a attack on vouchers, Education Secretary Richard Riley noted, "Religious schools now make up 79 percent of private schools." Thus, the secretary cautioned, choice would lead to public support of religious education.

Liberals won't physically stop parents from sending their children to religious schools (just yet). They will let you enroll your child in such an institution, but they'll make sure you pay twice -- once for the public schools (through your property taxes or other levies) and a second time in tuition at the local Sacred Heart Academy or Maimonides day school.

Even though each child removed from public schools saves the system roughly $7,000 annually, they won't allow the middle class a tax rebate for private education or provide vouchers for the poor.

This isn't government subsidizing religion, but facilitating freedom. Most of us are squeezed dry to support state schools. Tax relief for parochial-school tuition should not be equated with a handout.

Like Fidel Castro, liberals don't want competition for the minds and hearts of the young.

Lee Berg of the National Education Association is frank: "When education is not public, we (the public education lobby) no longer have the ability to control what is taught."

Liberals believe that they alone should be able shape the future, that only their views should be presented in America's classrooms. They want students instructed in the commandments of Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, not the Decalogue of Sinai.

The ability of families to choose religious education lies at the very heart of the school choice debate, as it commands center stage in the struggle for religious liberty.


4/20/98: Corporate execs deliver body parts to Beijing
4/14/98: National sales tax --- looks better all the time
4/13/98: The U.N. sinister? Hey, where did that idea come from?
4/8/98: Unions fight workers rights in 226 campaign
3/30/98: Africa's leaders should apologize
3/25/98: GOP shouldn't look to media for advice
3/22/98: You should care about Clinton's 'private life'
3/19/98: Color-coded reading, product of obsessive minds
3/16/98: Amendment will end exile of G-d from our public lives
3/9/98: Havana will break your heart
3/2/98: Vouchers Terrify Teachers' Union
2/25/98: Presidential politics starts at a resort hotel
2/23/98: Hillary's support comes at a price
2/18/98: How many times must we say "no" to gay rights?
2/16/98: Enoch Powell spoke the truth on immigration
2/11/98: Bubba behaving badly
2/9/98: A conservative dissent on the flag-burning amendment
2/5/98: We get the leaders we deserve
2/2/98: Send a signal that could penetrate boardroom doors
1/27/98: State of the president: hollow rhetoric
1/25/98: For Monica's playmate, we have no one to blame but ourselves
1/22/98: At Yale, bet on yarmulke over gown
1/19/98: Commission tackles America's fastest-growing addiction, gambling
1/15/98: Capital punishment and the hard case: no exceptions for Karla Faye Tucker
1/12/98: Partial-birth abortion and the GOP's future: the "big tent" meets truth in advertising
1/8/98: IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets
1/5/98: Connect the dots to create a terrorist state
1/1/98: The Unacceptables of 1997: Long may they rave
12/28/97: Hypocrisy is a liberal survival mechanism
12/23/97: Chanukah is no laughing matter
12/22/97: No merry Christmas for persecuted Christians around the world
12/18/97: Bosnia, Haiti, and how not to conduct a foreign policy

©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.