Much of the opposition to vouchers surrounds the opposition of vouchers being used to send a child to a religious school. The reasoning states it is wrong to compel a taxpayer to support a religious institution. This is a “theoretical” or “intellectual” objection. A family choosing to take the public funding for their child’s education and use it at a religious school will in no way impact the daily life of someone who may not agree with the teachings of that religious school. It happens every day when students use Pell grants to attend a religious university or to use government funding to send their child to a religious preschool.
However, this legal reasoning results in only the wealthy being able to have true religious liberty. If a family lacks the resources to home or privately educate their child at the religious institution of their choice they are compelled to send their child to their local public school where any discussions or expressions of faith are at best discouraged, but occasionally punished.
The child of faith attending a public school is required to compartmentalize or hide their faith (as if it is something shameful) less they “offend” a non-believer. In many ways the public school environment is outright hostile to children of faith telling them they cannot openly pray over their lunch, display drawings depicting their faith, share their faith with fellow students, reference God in a speech, etc.
Do not misunderstand; we are not (repeat: NOT-in no way shape or form) advocating organized prayer or religion in public school. Rather we want to illustrate that by siding with the “theoretical” or “intellectual” objection to vouchers our government is denying in a “real” and “tangible” way a child’s freedom of religion (that is for children whose parents lack the resources to provide their child with a religious education).
For example, some 70 –75 percent of Christian children leave the church once they leave home. Is it any wonder? In many schools, perhaps most, they have spent 6+ hours a day, 5 days a week for 12+ years in an environment that (in many ways) teaches values, theories and beliefs antithetical to their faith and often has an environment outright hostile to faith. They have been taught their faith is not integral to their salvation, but something they “do” on Sundays (or Fridays or Saturdays); it is a “lifestyle choice equal to all others,” something they “set aside” when at school, etc.
Denying religious freedom for the poor is another example how our education failures have become a civil rights issue, not based on race, but based on wealth. If you are rich enough to move to a neighborhood with a good school or to home or privately educate your child then your child has opportunities for a good education and a chance in life. If you have enough wealth you can provide an education in harmony with your faith; however, if you lack resources your child is trapped in the school they are zoned for no matter if it is safe, graduating, educating or destroying the faith of your children.
We need “real” choice in education. We have failed several generations. All of the children in Tennessee are our children and we have a duty to fight for them. We must demand equal civil rights for all of our children in Tennessee.