Concord Monitor Editorial: No taxpayer money for religious schools,12/11/11

posted Dec 11, 2011, 6:01 PM by Bill Duncan   [ updated May 7, 2012, 7:33 PM ]
(A very clear and strong editorial by the Concord Monitor on why, based on the New Hampshire Constitution, public money should not fund religious schools.)


No taxpayer money for religous schools
By Monitor staff
December 11, 2011

Led by Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt in the House and Jim Forsythe in the Senate, some New Hampshire Republicans want taxpayers to pay more so some parents can get "scholarships" to help send their children to a religious school, private school or public school in another district. If their attempt to blur the lines between church and state becomes law, it will no doubt be challenged in court, but it could succeed. Better that it be stopped in its tracks by lawmakers who believe that taxpayers shouldn't be forced to contribute to the cost of sending students to religious schools.

Traditionally, on the federal and state levels, constitutional provisions separating church and state banned taxpayer support of religious institutions. But in 2002 a U.S. Supreme Court dominated by conservatives knocked a hole in that wall and permitted the issuing of taxpayer-funded vouchers that could go to a religious school if the money was used only for secular purposes. Then, last spring, in another of the 5-4 decisions that are changing life and law in America, the court threw open the door to forced taxpayer support of religious education.

The stratagem, one already in use in a handful of states, works like this: Businesses or, in states with an income tax, individual taxpayers get to subtract from their taxes a big chunk of the money they donate to a nonprofit organization established to funnel money to parents who want to send their child to private or religious school. One proposal under consideration in New Hampshire suggest a 75 percent credit. The school district in turn loses the state education aid for that pupil but see little in savings unless a class could be consolidated and a teacher let go. The net effect would be to rob public education of resources.

The high court's majority employed shameless legal sophistry to justify its decision to permit such tax credits. Because the money that businesses would have paid under the tax never made it into state coffers, the money represented by the vouchers used to subsidize education in a religious institution was not public money, the majority ruled. It mattered not to them that other taxpayers had to pay more to offset the credits given the contributing businesses.

Justice Elena Kagan, in her dissent, got it right when she said the conservative majority's argument "offers a road map - more truly, just a one-step instruction - to any government that wishes to insulate its financing of religious activity from legal challenge." It is the roadmap that Bettencourt and Forsythe are following.

....get the rest at the Monitor site...

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