Two days ago, the Supreme Court made a ruling that public funds could be used for a playground at Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia, Missouri. I was furious about the ruling, but I read opinions by people I respect and tend to listen to in a couple of places, and they said not to worry, that it’s no big deal. The ruling is supposed to be narrow enough as to not lead to more public funding of churches. Since then I’ve come to feel even more strongly that they are wrong, and this ruling is a TERRIBLE idea.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment to Constitution of United States of America 1789 (rev. 1992)
First, the ruling (from the PBS story) so we’re on the same page.
The case arose from an application the church submitted in 2012 to take part in Missouri’s scrap tire grant program, which reimburses the cost of installing a rubberized playground surface made from recycled tires. The money comes from a fee paid by anyone who buys a new tire. The church’s application to resurface the playground for its preschool and daycare ranked fifth out of 44 applicants.
But the state’s Department of Natural Resources rejected the application, pointing to the part of the state constitution that says “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.”
Freedom of religion was the argument the church used in court to win even though we are, or were up until the business is a person with a religion ruling, crystal clear in the Constitution about the separation of ALL churches from State. What about my freedom not to give one penny of public funds to churches? Why should I have to support businesses which encourage ignorance and obedience from people starting with indoctrinating our precious, young minds on that very same publicly-funded playground? What if I don’t want to fund groups that use lies, guilt, and fear (not to mention the promise-of-heaven scam) to make their followers do what they tell them? to vote the way the Church tells them even if it’s against their interests? Why go further to give money to already tax-exempt businesses when they are set up specifically to collect large amounts of cash (even from the poor) to buy jets and jewelry for their leaders? Oh, sure, they toss a few bucks to charities, but in the scheme of things, churches alone could feed ALL the poor and the hungry of the world, as well as resurface their playgrounds, if they wanted to. But they don’t want to. And why pay for it if they can get us to in their name? Churches hold literally billions of dollars in wealth. Literally. There is no excuse to give public funds to a religious anything. Don’t discriminate; give no public funds to any religious organization. Period. Just like the Constitution says.
Nobody in the government tried to stop that church from resurfacing that playground. Nobody infringed upon the church or its school’s right to resurface their playground. They already receive plenty from the government in the way of tax exemption. That’s enough in my opinion. Churches are a scam, and many are/support hate groups. The public has no debt to them and no valid reason to help any of them do anything. Individuals can help all they like, but keep us out of it. It’s literally our right.
Second, a whole lot of our politicians and religious leaders are very fucking excited (including Paul Ryan, and we in Wisconsin have learned that if it makes him happy, it’s bad for us) about this next step toward America as a theocracy. This is a step closer to funding churches and church schools. This is a step closer to removing funding from public schools to give to religious schools. They have set a precedent: the government gave public funds to a church. This is exactly what DeVos wants toward scrapping public schools and dumbing down our population: the wealthy use her vouchers to attend publicly-funded religious schools, and the rest of us who cannot afford their schools with only vouchers go with whatever our parents can teach us after work. In a generation or two they’ll have their nation of ignorant workers who do what the church tells them to. While we shrug our shoulders, DeVos’ dream of using our schools to build “God’s Kingdom” will be realized.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources administers the grant program for this particular project, and it had the money to fund 14 projects. 44 applied. That means that if this church school gets the funding another school or deserving project does not.
Third, why isn’t everyone freaking the fuck out? Why isn’t this all over the internet and news? People fought long and hard to be free from taxpayer-supported religion. I understand that our elected representatives are simultaneously trying to take government funds for health care from veterans, elderly, children, and the poor to give tax breaks to the wealthy, but this is also huge. And there’s also that the Supreme Court upheld part of the Muslim ban in the news. Come to think of it. . .
Fourth, if that school was a run by Muslims, would this decision have been the same?
All around us, our leaders and representatives succumb to pressure, to ignorance, to dumb, to hate. Those of us who are paying attention fear going to sleep. We fear what we’ll wake up to. We fear we won’t wake because of which moron has his tiny finger on the red button. Some days it feels like the walls are crumbling around us. But this? It’s the First Amendment. If we look away from it too long, the walls won’t matter. This is literally our foundation sliding inch by inch down the slope.
Yes, I’m angry. We should all be furious. If you’re not, stop and think about why. Then stop and think about which church projects it’s okay for our government to spend our money on and which are not okay. Will they draw the line in the same place you do? For me, they’ve already crossed the line.
There are statements all over that go like this one:
“The potential sweep of the decision is pretty broad. All Oklahoma taxpayers may end up supporting churches and religious schools, whether or not they want to,” he (University of Oklahoma Constitutional Law Professor Joseph Thai) said. “Before yesterday’s decision, the Oklahoma Constitution forbade the state from publicly funding religious institutions.
It’s a slippery slope from respecting the Constitution and keeping Church separate from State, to legally allowing the CEO of a business to impose his religious beliefs on his employees, to using public funds for religious schools. We are heading down that slope inch by inch, and with this decision we’re picking up speed.
Link: “Supreme Court Rules Religious School Can Use Taxpayer Funds For Playground” – by Nina Totenberg of NPR
Link: “UCC leaders see Supreme Court decision as a ‘step backward for religious freedom in the U.S.” – by Connie Larkman
Link: “Arkansas’ Ten Commandments Monument Lasted Less Than 24 Hours” – by Laurel Wamsley of NPR