Editorial: The wall of Church and State is eroding


Glenburn and Palermo, two small towns in Maine, would normally be of little concern to New Yorkers. But a decision by the United States Supreme Court in June could prove very interesting for this state.
The court’s conservative majority has further breached the wall of separation between church and state that the framers of the US Constitution erected in the First Amendment. And some fear it could lead to more decisions forcing taxpayers to fund parochial schools.

Less than half of Maine’s districts have a high school, and the state has long chosen to provide tuition assistance for students in these areas to attend state-approved private schools. The state, however, is excluding religious schools, prompting a lawsuit on behalf of two families who wanted reimbursement to send their children to parochial schools.

The majority of the court ruled that if the state provides a benefit to private schools, it cannot deny that benefit to certain institutions simply because they are parochial. The ruling cited an earlier case in which the court said Missouri could not exclude a church from a program to fund playgrounds.

The decision is a serious blow to the separation of church and state, and it could pave the way for further action by this reactionary and militant majority. New York doesn’t have a program like Maine’s — it wisely avoided even establishing tax credits for people to donate to private school foundations, as former Gov. Andrew Cuomo pointed out. proposed once. But it does fund charter schools, which are considered public schools but are privately run, and some, including now-retired Justice Stephen Breyer, warn the ruling could extend to religious charters . Unless New York wants to be forced to have taxpayers fund parochial schools, it should carefully consider this decision and ensure that its charter school program is immune from the religious inclinations of the court. – or be prepared to end it. Public funds should not be spent on religious education and indoctrination.

The court’s desire to blur the line between church and state was evident in another ruling last month regarding school prayer. Court finds Bremerton, Wash. football coach was within his rights to pray at the 50-yard line after games, another ruling that set aside decades of ban precedent religious activities at public school events. The majority of the court argued that because the game was over, the coach was on his free time, so his actions were unofficial.

This tortured decision ignores the fact that these prayer sessions have turned into group events and overlooked the enormous pressure that members of a school team must both express solidarity with their teammates and please the adult who decides how much time they spend in the field, if any. . It’s a decision that aligns closely with the view of some conservatives that the wall between church and state is a false construct in what they see as a fundamentally Christian nation.

The nation’s founders understood very well the lessons of history about the dangers of state endorsement of religion and crafted the broader First Amendment religious protection to stand the test of time. . These two decisions, alarmingly, demonstrate the determination of a judicial majority that seems determined to erode, even dismantle, this wall, and how quickly the building could collapse.


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