Attention, religious conservatives: Be careful what you wish for. Because this week, I’m on your side.


Three Maine families have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force the state to pay tuition for their kids to attend church-sponsored schools.

I think that’s perfectly OK.

Here’s the catch. Current state law prohibits spending any public money on religious education. So, I could also live with leaving everything just the way it is.

That’s not as contradictory as it seems.


The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The same rule applies to the states, so there are two ways Maine could go to meet that requirement. Either it could refuse to spend a dime on religious education, or it could agree to pay for any and all spiritual schooling. The state opted for the cheaper alternative.

I always thought going to any school was hellish. Your views on the educational afterlife can be emailed to

The religious right has never been happy with that constitutionally acceptable decision. And now it has the backing of the federal Department of Justice. “Under the Constitution, governments may not exclude students from education programs solely because of their religious status or their religious choices,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a press statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all children and their families may participate in benefit programs without discrimination based on their faith.”

That’s fine with right-wingers, who tend to have a limited concept of what sorts of sectarian schools would qualify for government funding. In the case of most of those advocating for this lawsuit, these institutions would be Christian. And not some lefty, liberal, watered-down version of Christianity with same-sex marriage and feminism and R-rated movies. They’re talking Bible-thumping schools, where students are taught the world is only a little more than 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs coexisted with cavemen, and John Oliver is the Anti-Christ.

That’s not exactly in line with what the Constitution says. That document would appear to require that if we’re going to give taxpayer money to one religion, we’ll have to give it to all of them. And that could quickly turn into a faith-based conservative’s nightmare.

Those government checks might go to Muslim schools, where they’d teach Sharia law. Or Hindu schools, where they’d proclaim that cows are sacred and hamburgers are evil. Or Reform Jewish schools, where they’d indoctrinate kids in the belief that Donald Trump is a lying sack of decaying protoplasm. Or Satanic schools, where the cafeteria menu features mystery meat every time neighborhood kids or pets disappear.

It’s enough to make a sensible conservative acknowledge there’s a lot to be said for the status quo.

Maine’s law has been challenged in court several times in the past and has always been found to be constitutionally sound. But lately, the judiciary has been infested with lots of Trump-appointed judges, and there’s no telling how strongly these newbies feel bound by precedent. As attorney Stephen Whiting, who supports the religious parents’ case, told the Associated Press, “The law has changed over time, and now it’s time for the court to look at this thing as a constitutional right.”

Wait, isn’t that the same argument liberals used to justify legal abortions?

I warned you religious conservatives to be careful what you wish for.

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