It has been a critical couple of weeks for the nation in the US Supreme Court. Last week, the Supreme Court heard the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That case involves a Mississippi law that is a direct, head-on challenge to the pro-abort Roe legal regime. In that argument, it appeared there were five solid and six probable votes to strike down both Roe and Casey (read Justice Thomas Tears Into Pro-Abortion Lawyers With Hard Opening Questions for more color commentary). This week, the Supreme Court turned back a challenge to Texas’s heartbeat law; see Supreme Court Humiliates Biden, Refuses to Stop Texas Heartbeat Law, and Gorsuch and the Wise Latina Have a Public Spat. All in all, it looks as though abortion may cease to be a federal issue.
Perhaps just as critical to the nation’s future was Carson v. Makin. That case addressed whether a state can subsidize private school tuition and expressly forbid religious schools to participate in the program. You can read my take at this post: Supreme Court Seems Ready to Nuke Maine’s Law Discriminating Against Religious Schools.
While there was general wailing about the bum’s rush given the noble and Holy status of abortion, some of the most hyperbolic rhetoric was directed at the Maine school-choice case. This is how the always entertaining Ian Milhiser of Vox.com sees school choice. Headline: The Supreme Court appears really eager to force taxpayers to fund religious education. Subhead: Carson v. Makin appears likely to end in another transformative victory for the religious right.
All six of the Court’s Republican appointees appeared to think that this exclusion for religious schools is unconstitutional — meaning that Maine would be required to pay for tuition at pervasively religious schools. Notably, that could include schools that espouse hateful worldviews. According to the state, one of the plaintiff families in Carson wants the state to pay for a school that requires teachers to sign a contract stating that “the Bible says that ‘God recognize[s] homosexuals and other deviants as perverted‘” and that “[s]uch deviation from Scriptural standards is grounds for termination.'”
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In the likely event that these plaintiffs’ families prevail, that will mark a significant escalation in the Court’s decisions benefiting the religious right — even if the Court limits the decision narrowly to Maine’s situation. Shortly after Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation gave Republicans a 6-3 supermajority on the Supreme Court, the Court handed down a revolutionary decision holding that people of faith may seek broad exemptions from the laws that apply to anyone else. But the Court has historically been more reluctant to require the government to tax its citizens and spend that money on religion.
That reluctance may very well be gone.
At Slate, noted legal eagle and martial arts expert (he’s broken several bones in his years of study, donchaknow?) Mark Joseph Stern cries Armageddon-like a rabid gerbil was crawling around…well, we won’t go there. The headline there is The Supreme Court’s New Religious Liberty Case Could Destroy Public Education with an over-the-top subhead that reads A conservative supermajority may soon force states to fund Christian schools that indoctrinate students with hate.
Factually, it is literally impossible for a Christian school to indoctrinate students with hate. If a school teaches “hate,” it is, by definition, not Christian. But that is a different post.
After a year of nationwide panic over what’s taught in publicly funded schools, the Supreme Court’s upcoming argument in Carson v. Makin deserves more attention. The questions posed in the case have major ramifications for the engineered hysteria over critical race theory, as well as the general dismay many Americans feel over the kind of education they’re subsidizing with their tax dollars. Carson v. Makin asks whether the First Amendment compels individuals of every faith to help finance the indoctrination of children by conservative Christians to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, and liberal Christians. This pedagogy is so extreme, so divisive and fanatical, that it makes critical race theory look like Blue’s Clues. Yet the Supreme Court will almost certainly force taxpayers to subsidize these harmful teachings, no matter how gravely it violates their own sincerely held moral and religious beliefs.
Public education is a bedrock of American democracy. A bad decision in Espinoza would shake the foundation of the nation’s education system, spurning the notion that state-funded schools should teach students how to engage in diverse and pluralistic self-governance. The Christian schools that would receive a windfall from Maine operate as prejudice academies, instructing students to hate people who are different from them. They reject equality in favor of intolerance, preaching a fundamentalist ideology that’s incompatible with multicultural democracy.
And let’s be clear: The overwhelming majority of institutions that will benefit from these decisions are Christian. Although the plaintiffs here appeal to gauzy abstractions about religious pluralism, it’s almost always Christian parents and Christian schools seeking public money. Most parochial schools in the United States are Christian because most people in the United States are Christian. Carson is not about religious pluralism. It’s about empowering the majority religion to use the machinery of the state to establish its supremacy at the literal expense of nonbelievers.
At the heart of Carson lies a rejection of public education as we know it–an insistence that the government engages in noxious discrimination when it demands secular instruction in publicly funded schools. This idea, taken to its extreme, would obligate states to spend as much money on religious schools as it does on public schools, essentially destroying the public school system. SCOTUS might not take this leap in Carson, but it will transfer millions of dollars to Christian schools that will use it to teach hatred of minority groups. And by normalizing bigoted ideas, it will undermine a guiding principle of public schooling in America for more than a century: the proposition that every student deserves an education that prepares them to participate equally in democracy.
Anytime the left is moved to this sort of fecal incontinence, you know you are at a pressure point near and dear to them.
Here are some quick answers to Stern’s points.
CRT is nothing more than a racist philosophy that underpins an equally racist spoils system. The opposition to CRT is not hysterical.
Nothing in the Maine case forces the indoctrination of children; to the contrary, its very purpose is to prevent such indoctrination.
Passing your values and culture on to your children should be your highest priority; no other person has any business in that process, and the state has no right to interfere.
Christians don’t object to people; they object to behavior. There is s difference. I don’t object to alcoholics in the workplace; I have a right to keep drunken people out of the workplace.
A “Christian” school should be free to limit enrollment to children of their faith. There is nothing outrageous about this. There is literally no area in Maine where the only school choice is a Christian school, and no such claim was made in court briefs.
A public education does not imply that it is carried out in a state-funded school system or that the state has any say in what is taught.
How to function in a “diverse and pluralistic society” is a matter for parents to decide, no one else.
I don’t know how school choice helps Christians establish “supremacy,” but if it does, sign me up right now.
No cultural or legal basis within the United States gives a state-funded school system a presumed monopoly power on education. But, on the other hand, there is a cultural and legal basis for saying that the state should ensure a child has a publicly supported education.
The purpose of education money is to educate children. Period. The extent to which it funds a multi-tiered bureaucracy of administrators is wasteful and dysfunctional.
The nation was founded without an educational bureaucracy and existed for most of its history without one; odds are, it will do just fine if the current system goes away.
While Stern describes the situation in a grossly dishonest way, he reveals the true issue. The argument is about who controls what your children are taught in the way of values. Should you, as a parent, be required to pay taxes to support and send your children to a mandatory system of schooling that indoctrinates your children on issues of race and sexuality and even governance that you find appalling?
Or can you opt-out?
Along the way, Stern confuses the concept of “public education” with a system of state-funded schools. Those things are not the same. Under the case debated by the Supreme Court, a parent can send their child to a state-funded school if they wish. Stern would take that freedom of choice away. In other words, he endorses the position of Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial campaign.
That was a position that got his ass handed to him at the polls.
Both Milhisier at Vox and Stern at Slate fixate on the fact that traditional Christian sexual ethics would stop the propagation of the LGBTQIA+? “community.” This is understandable as public school systems in many places actively mainstream LGBTQIA+? propaganda. For example, in California, some teachers attended a workshop on recruiting kids to a “Gay Straight Alliance” club and concealing the child’s activity from parents.
They are right that Christian schools will be able to refuse to employ people living lifestyles that do not conform to a Scriptural model. The Supreme Court has affirmed this right in Hosanna Tabor, and there is nothing in Maine’s “anti-discrimination” law that can prevent that. But, on the other hand, it is hard to think of any honorable reason that a person who rejects Christian sexual ethics to seek employment as a teacher or staff member at a Christian school.
This case that the left’s reaction is actually a good analog to what has happened in social media. The left has ruthlessly dominated social media and unilaterally decided which opinions are allowed and which are not. When it finally dawned on them that conservatives were developing alternative institutions, they went bonkers (Lefties Freak out on Conservatives for Doing Exactly What They Told Them to Do). In the same way, the left owns the public education establishment, and I think it is to say a clear majority of teachers and administrators are rabid leftists and much more interested in shaping the worldviews of their charges than educating them. The backlash against CRT in schools and a growing demand for money to be allocated to children and not school systems is threatening the ability of the left to propagandize and indoctrinate children. They don’t like this one bit.
The good news, of course, is that they don’t have to like it because it is going to happen without their permission.