I’m reluctant to support any Trump administration posture, but here goes:

Early U.S. schooling was by church-run schools, funded by taxes. When Catholic immigrants sought funds, Protestant church schools were collapsed into nondenominational, aka “public,” schools. Rather than paying for reading, writing and arithmetic but not religion instruction, the Bill of Rights was reread to deny parochial school children any funding. Thereafter, parents of students in Catholic, Jewish and other non-state schools paid double – school taxes and tuition.

Today, the U.S. is the only developed country that so discriminates against parental choice. (My Tennessee public school still had weekly chapel, at which a Protestant minister read Scripture and briefly commented.)

Oregon went further, obliging public school attendance to prevent parochial schools. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925), the Supreme Court shot down that arrogance by affirming that children are not “mere creatures of the state” but, primarily, of parents.

After World War II, Congress finessed such discrimination by directing GI Bill funding to the veteran, not the school.

The Kennedy administration’s effort to add federal aid to nonpublic schools ended only when three Democratic House stalwarts barely escaped defeat in 1962. A 1967 New York state constitutional convention provided for funding to follow the child, but the National Education Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and some Jewish groups successfully campaigned for the defeat of the revised constitution in referendum. A reputable journalist told me that the ACLU had seriously considered abandoning that position.

Now the Trump administration sees a breach of religious liberty (“Justice Dept. backs Maine plaintiffs in religious school case,” June 12, Page A1) and the ACLU hangs on to that hoary Know-Nothing discrimination.

William H. Slavick


Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: