On April 4, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that turned the whole concept of separation of church and state on its head.
According to an April 5 article from the Los Angeles Times, the Supreme Court ruled that tax credits that pay for children to go to religious schools in Arizona would stay because it would be unconstitutional to take them away.
Arizona’s dollar-for-dollar tax credit gives up to $500 per person or $1,000 for a couple in government money to those who donate to organizations that pay tuition for students attending private schools.
According to the Times article, up to 92 percent of the money has gone to religious schools so far.
The Supreme Court ruled that these tax breaks were not the equivalent of spending government money and in a 5-4 decision deemed it unconstitutional to get rid of them.
The fact that the Supreme Court could ever see tax breaks funding religious schools as being constitutional is angering.
To start, tax breaks such as these are the same as government spending.
The money given back comes straight from the government, so how could it not be?
Second, this decision by the Supreme Court just gave the OK to use government aid for private religious schools.
There are two things wrong here:
1) It is not ok to give state money — taxpayers’ money — to a religious organization.
The First Amendment keeps the government from promoting any establishment of religion. This would include churches, of course, but also religious schools.
It’s a bit of a loophole that the Supreme Court found in making its decision. When thinking about it, this is what that reasoning sounds like to me: ‘The money goes to fund private schools, and hey, who are we to say which private schools you can contribute to?’
Well, the constitution does. Let’s go over it again: No promotion of a religious establishment.
That being said, religious schools constitutionally should be exempt from receiving these tax breaks.
2) Since when does the state aid private schools?
To understand why this is wrong, we must answer the question of where this money would come from. Simple answer: from the taxpayers.
It harms the public school system of a state to take taxpayers’ money and put it towards private schools.
A decision to allow these tax breaks to be constitutional in Arizona could be a gateway for other states to take on similar tax laws.
In fact, since the ruling, similar laws are already on their way in six other states, according to the article from the Times.
If other states are going to be using government money for private and religious schools, what will happen to the public school system? This funding is taken from taxpayers’ money that would normally go to the public sector, including public school systems.
Wisconsin is not the only state facing cuts to funding of public education. If the public education sector is losing money to private schools on top of budget cuts, they will be hurting for money.
So yes, our school system will be hurt by this, and so will our constitutional rights.
The separation of church and state was one of those ideas upheld by the nation’s founding fathers and is an integral part of the Constitution. If our First Amendment rights are ignored by those who are supposed to implement it, who’s to say what other parts of the Constitution our Supreme Court is willing to throw out next?