Government Shekels

Several years ago, when I was conducting research into the “Charitable Choice” provisions of 1992 Welfare Reform (more familiarly known as Bush’s “Faith-Based Initiative”), I interviewed a local pastor who was very skeptical of the prospect of contracting with government to provide social services. His memorable “take” : “With the government’s shekels come the government’s shackles.”

I thought about that pithy observation when I read a couple of recent articles reporting that voucher schools–schools that receive taxpayer dollars–are teaching creationism and other religious doctrines.

A Politico review found that over 300 of these publicly-funded religious schools teach the biblical creation story as fact, distort and misrepresent basic facts about the scientific method and “nurture distrust of science.”

The law in this area is settled, and quite clear: Public dollars cannot be used to teach religious dogma. If and when lawsuits are filed–and the likelihood is that they will be–these schools will have to face the reality of that Pastor’s observation. They have a choice: take the money and teach real science, or forego the money and teach whatever they want.

Whatever one’s view of education vouchers as policy (my view, as readers of this blog know, is pretty dim for a whole raft of reasons), one thing is clear: If private or parochial schools take public dollars, they have to abide by the same constitutional standards that govern public schools.

If they are unwilling to acquiesce to the “government’s shackles,” they will have to give up the government’s shekels.


  1. We know for certain this is precisely what is happening in Indiana–religious schools are taking public funds in the form of vouchers and using those dollars to inculcate their students with religious dogma such as creationism. It is a deeply disturbing situation in that those of us who who do not share those views are being forced to support them by our taxes.

  2. I gather these religious based voucher schools are primarily Christian based. What would supporters do if Jewish, Muslim or Buddhaist schools are receiving public tax dollars from public education. I’m sure we would hear the outcry across the county. Is there documentation regarding these educational/religious school options? Each Christian based school is steeped in it’s own version of religious dogma and creationism. I found the study of different religions to be enlightening and interesting, giving me a better understanding of their beliefs. But…this should not be part of public education cirriculum.

  3. The Bible Thumpers want it all. They want special (lax) rules for them when they engage in business practices like day-care. They want Government Money (Tax Dollars) to support their Doctrines and beliefs in their schools.

    Hobby Lobby and others are fighting tooth and nail against providing birth control.
    We have Hobby Lobby which may import 80% of their products from China, the leading country in abortion and birth control (1 child policy). Nice to see they look the other way when it comes to profit and money.

  4. Hobby Lobby’s insurance company provided birth control and abortion drugs (as needed) before the ACA. Now with the mandate, it’s a problem? It’s utter nonsense is what it is and I hope that the Supremes make the right decision about it.

  5. Research on the faith-based initiatives shows that providing Federal grants is ultimately destructive to the organization that receives it. When an organization totally depends on contributions from like-minded people, that is a reliable base that tends to increase its contributions when things get bad. With the injection of sustaining grants, the like-minded people go elsewhere with their money, so when the government help stops (as it always does), the organization is left high and dry. Injecting vouchers into a system where participants were heretofore restricted to like-minded people changes the rules and will probably have serious consequences for the organizations. Let’s hope the court decisions on this matter come sooner than later, just for the sake of the organizations receiving the state money, if not for the sake of the state and the children who will ultimately be hurt in one way or another.

  6. Yes there are Jewish and Muslim schools in Indiana receiving voucher funds.

    Precise as the Indiana constitution is on NO money from the state treasury being used to benefit a religious institution, our state supreme court ruled vouchers constitutional. The voucher money is laundered through the parents to the school and so was approved.

    The courts do not permit money laundering to cleanse funds used for an illegal purpose elsewhere. It’s only a matter of time before other money launderers will use religious school vouchers as a legal precedent.

  7. Several weeks ago I signed up to get the blog on my email and received it for maybe a week but not since. Must one sign up every week?
    I am astonished at how “right on” Sheila consistently responds to outrageous actions/statements by radical voices in and out of our state.
    I would like to consistently receive the blogged emails—please.

  8. Thank you, Nancy. I am against the voucher system but am glad – and surprised – that it isn’t restricted to only Christian schools. At least in their anti-American and Indiana Constitution education provision, they aren’t discriminating against other religions. Is this something we should be grateful for and proud of – Hell No! Public school systems, including transportation to assigned schools, are on the losing end.

  9. I found the following information in an AOL news item; no idea if the school has voucher students or not but this is a lesson in 21st Century Christianity and education in the state of Virginia.

    Eight-year old Sunnie Kahle attended Timberlake Christian School in Virginia. At age five her hair was waist length when she asked that it be cut to give to a child with cancer who had lost his hair. She maintained her short hair style then began wearing jeans and tee shirts; other students asked if she were a boy or a girl. There is no mention of her being transgendered; only that she prefers short hair and wearing jeans and tee shirts. Sunnie lives with her grandparents; the school principal sent them a message ordering them to see that Sunnie followed “God-ordained identity” for girls or Timberlake Christian School is not the place for her to be educated. Sunnie was then enrolled in public school by her grandparents. This is an eight year old child whose Christian behavior at age five by giving her long hair to a cancer patient who lost their hair, far surpasses the pseudo Christian school authorities who requested she leave their school. Obviously “Jesus Loves Me” will not be found in their hymnals.

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