Reauthorization of D.C. Vouchers Violates Separation of Church and State

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a clear violation of the separation of church and state, today House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman announced their plans to reopen Washington, D.C.’s voucher program to new students, allowing private religious schools to receive thousands of U.S. taxpayer dollars and to continue to discriminate in hiring and enrollment on the basis of religious preference.

“It is not only abhorrent but unconstitutional to divert precious funds away from public education and toward private schools that promote a clear religious bias,” said Sean Faircloth, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. “It is reprehensible that any organization could benefit from U.S. taxpayer dollars and, at the same time, discriminate based on a particular religious viewpoint or lack thereof.  By awarding federal funds to religious schools, this legislation represents an assault on the separation of church and state, one of the core values upon which our government was founded.”  

The Secular Coalition for America strongly opposes the use of U.S. tax dollars to fund religious education rather than a secular education. For example, the Ambassador Baptist Church Christian School, a recipient of both students and D.C. voucher program funds, states on its website that the school’s “primary mission and goal … is to train the students in the knowledge of God and the Christian way of life…. God’s truth is infused throughout the curriculum and is reinforced in chapel each week.”  

“Such a viewpoint is not inclusive of religious minorities or the non-religious,” Faircloth said. “Therefore, it is not appropriate for such a school to benefit from taxes paid by all Americans.”  

Unlike public schools that must accept all students regardless of religious background and hire teachers and staff based on merit, private religious schools may discriminate in who they accept as students on whatever criteria they choose, including religious preference, and in who they hire as instructors and staff based on religious dogma rather than professional quality.

The Secular Coalition for America is a national nonprofit lobbying group dedicated to increasing the visibility and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and protecting and strengthening the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. For more information, please visit www.secular.org.

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