You Go, Dan Forestal!

A recent report in the Indianapolis Star just warmed the cockles of my heart. (And before you ask, no, I have no idea what “cockles” are.)

Here’s what made me smile:

With the Indiana General Assembly back in session, one state lawmaker says he still intends to introduce legislation that would block public dollars from going to private schools that engage in discriminatory hiring practices.

The proposal by Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, comes in the wake of discrimination charges lobbed at Roncalli High School, a Catholic school overseen by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Forestal said he wants to see strings put on the state’s voucher program, which uses public dollars to offset to cost of tuition at Roncalli and other participating K-12 private schools.

I’ve written before about Indiana’s voucher program, which is by far the largest in the country, and the damage it is inflicting.  The funds supporting the program would otherwise go to Indiana’s chronically under-funded public schools; research confirms that the private schools participating in the voucher program have failed to improve the academic performance of the children attending them (that they would do so was the original justification for the program); and the program is a thinly-veiled constitutional “work-around” that permits tax dollars to flow to religious institutions. (Some 90% of participating private schools are religious.)

The bill that Representative Forestal proposes to introduce addresses another glaring defect of the voucher program: the lack of standards imposed on participating schools.

A colleague and I recently surveyed voucher programs operating around the U.S., in order to see whether any of those programs required participating schools to teach civics. You will probably not be surprised to learn that none did. I’m relatively confident that if we conducted a follow-up survey, we would be equally unable to find programs imposing non-discrimination requirements. Any nondiscrimination requirements, not just those protective of LGBTQ students and faculty.

There is something very disturbing about taking money away from our public schools and sending it to religious schools without attaching any meaningful conditions. Taxpayers may well be funding schools that teach creationism, that refuse to teach evolution, and that discriminate against students and faculty members who violate tenets of their theologies. (In Louisiana, schools participating in that state’s voucher program were found to be doing all of these things.)

Representative Forestal’s intended legislation was prompted by a widely-publicized incident at Roncalli High School (from which Forestal graduated). Roncalli is one of the largest recipients of vouchers in Indiana.

Two guidance counselors at the school have filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after they said they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The Archdiocese has denied these charges.

 Shelly Fitzgerald was suspended from her job in August after her marriage certificate was presented to school administration. Fitzgerald, who has worked at Roncalli for 15 years, has been in a same-sex relationship for 22 years. She and her wife, Victoria, were married four years ago.

Lynn Starkey has been in a civil union with her spouse since 2015 and worked at Roncalli for nearly 40 years.

The school and Archdiocese have said in public statements that employees must support the teachings of the Catholic Church, including marriage being “between a man and a woman.”

Religious exemptions to civil rights laws allow them to impose such rules–when they are spending their own money.

One of the most basic purposes of the Establishment Clause was to prevent tax dollars from supporting religion. That prohibition makes even more sense today. In a diverse country, taxpayers of various faiths and none should not be forced to support beliefs inimical to their own, and definitely should not see their tax dollars sent to institutions that turn around and discriminate against them.

Forestal said it best:“If you choose to discriminate, public dollars should not go to your school.”

Good luck, Representative Forestal!


  1. The state of Indiana has never fully recognized its qualified educators in the public education field and has lost many; it is now allowing private, religious schools to take aim at loyal, qualified, dedicated members of their staff by delving into their most personal lives. The students have come forward to support the Roncalli counselor for her help and support when they need her; the students are showing more wisdom and Christianity than the administrators of their chosen private religious school.

    Regarding Sheila’s comments regarding the voucher program; “and the program is a thinly-veiled constitutional “work-around” that permits tax dollars to flow to religious institutions. (Some 90% of participating private schools are religious.)” I would add; “that permits tax dollars to flow into TAX EXEMPT religious institutions.” which make up some 90% of the recipients.

    “Forestal said it best:“If you choose to discriminate, public dollars should not go to your school.” It is NOT only the discrimination which is totally wrong regarding the use of our tax dollars; I grew up in the generation, and still adhere to its basis, if you can’t afford to pay for it, you shouldn’t expect to have it to be given to you and paid for by others…that includes your choice of schools.

    Using whatever “work around” wording or system; they are violating the Constitution of the United States of America and the Indiana Constitution with total disregard for their meaning.

  2. Is it possible to sue our state for refusing to obey civil rights laws at religious organizations when they spend taxpayer money? If the state legislature refuses to obey the law why can’t it be sued? Since I am not a lawyer can a legal expert please answer my question?

  3. The guiding principles our country has always striven to uphold have been under attack by power hungry bigots from our earliest days. But today’s efforts by Evangelicals and Catholics are cementing into place a new form of government based on fundamentalist christian teachings.
    Despite weekly news reports of scandals, abuses against children, attempts to make laws that protect their own bigotry and racism, it is clear that the leaders of these religious factions have joined themselves to one of the two political parties and are using it to further their take over of the government.
    Take a good look at the video today of the Catholic youth at the so called Right To Life march in Washington. Replace those “MAGA” words on their caps with Nazi symbols and see what is coming.
    Catholic schools don’t teach civics because heaven forbid the teachers having to explain why the Bill of Rights does not apply to them.

  4. We got to see a demonstration of what these young folks in religious schools are learning.
    In Washington DC, a pack of nasty kids from a Catholic school were openly hostile to an American Indian. Nasty little jerks. These pricks should get NO MONEY from the government.
    One report reads:
    One boy stood directly in front of Phillips, smirking as those around him chanted and made “tomahawk chops” with their hands. The teens were reportedly in Washington, DC, to attend the March for Life as part of a trip sponsored by their school, Covington Catholic High School, in Park Hills, Kentucky.

    Speaking after the incident, Shilling, looking shaken, recounted what had happened: “I heard them saying, ‘Build that wall, build that wall.’ You know, this is indigenous lands. We’re not supposed to have walls here; we never did.” He said he wished that the “mass of young men” who taunted him would “put that energy into making this country really great.”

  5. Theresa @ 7:44 mentions the “Right to Life march in DC.
    Covington Catholic High School is trending on social media after multiple videos surfaced on Saturday reportedly showing an incident between a group of young men from the school and indigenous marchers in Washington, D.C.

    Videos show participants in the Indigenous Peoples March, one man playing a drum, surrounded by young men in “Make America Great Again” hats and Covington Catholic clothing.

    Multiple videos being shared extensively on social media appear to show students from Covington Catholic High School surrounding a Native American participant in the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. on Friday. The event happened at the same time as the National March for Life, an anti-abortion gathering in D.C., which was attended by Cov Cath students.

    The group of young men are yelling and jumping, as the indigenous men begin to play music and drum in the Indigenous Peoples March. According to Indian Country Today, the drummer is Omaha elder and Vietnam Veteran, Nathan Phillips.

    The Native American, later identified as Nathan Philips, spoke after the incident and said that the students were chanting in favor of building a wall, a reference to President Trump’s signature campaign pledge to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Covington Catholic is a private, all-male high school located in Park Hills, Kentucky.

    Covington Catholic is a private, all-male high school. Isn’t this the type of school Brett Kavanaugh went to???

    Seems typical though an all male school sends it students to Washington DC to protest a Woman’s Right to Choose. They are decked out MAGA gear.

    As I have said here before I find it hard to believe any woman would attend a Catholic Church, sine woman are in steerage – They cannot be priests, bishops, cardinals, etc. All power is the hands of the men.

  6. Thank you, Theresa; I posted some severe anti-Catholic comments on that Facebook post of those Catholic students jeering and disrespecting a Native American Elder celebrating his religion and his heritage. As religion is forced on us daily by the federal government and our tax dollars here at home go to support the state level religious education system; it moves me further from Christianity as defined by government and deeper into my own spirituality and belief in a higher power, whatever form it may be. Jesus considered a church to be, “Wherever two or more of you are gathered in My name…” Having chased the money changers from the temple; I don’t believe he was referring to Trump and Pence along with McConnell being that “two or more”.

  7. Indiana State Senator Kruse Wants Religious Indoctrination in Public Schools via Senate Bill 373.

    Provides that each school corporation that offers as an elective in the school corporation’s high school curriculum a course surveying religions of the world (survey course) may also include as part of the survey course’s curriculum the study of the Bible. Provides that the governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science.

    I guess if they want to study the bible, they could do so in the Class on Bronze Age Mythology. The health class, if they still teach that could include instruction on bleeding or laying on of hands to cure disease.

    The willful ignorance of Cruse is evident in the elevating of creation science to a theory. In the world of science a theory is a fact, a hypothesis is an unproven theory. Evolution is a fact. Creation science would not even be worthy of a hypothesis as it lacks any scientific credibility. Facts of course do not get in the way of bible thumping, blind belief in the supernatural.

  8. This , for me, is definitely inconsistent with the separation of religion and state government. The churches of these religious schools do NOT pay taxes so why should they be granted vouchers for their schools which come from tax dollars? I say they should not.

    I had a wonderful exchange of emails with Dan Forestal several years ago around the need for passage of a hate crimes bill. It was obvious to me that he deeply respects people in minorities. If he was in my district, I’d vote for him in a New York minute. Giving vouchers to religious schools who oppress minorities supports systems of oppression for minorities.

    When it comes to education, Indiana has consistently been unwilling to fund schools and pay teachers a livable salary. They so quickly forget that if we wish to guarantee the future of our state we need to invest in the children and youth of this state. Failing to provide the resources and funding for their educational needs, will not secure our state’s nor our country’s ability to compete in a global economy.

    I really wish I lived in a world where every single adult understood that if we wish to create justice and peace, we need to ensure that every single child has his/her needs met. But children, unfortunately, have never been high on the list of priorities in this world.

  9. Cockles are a non-anatomical label for chambers. Think “cockleshells”.

    Everyone with sense on this blog keeps underlining the stupidity, self-righteousness, self-serving and utterly selfish motives of religious organization. They KNOW they have to invest in the continuing brainwashing of children to keep THEIR coins tinkling into the plate. Money changers be damned! These intellectual perverts are all about power, and in this country power is MONEY.

    How nice that somebody proposed a law to end public funding of private, religious schools. BUT as long as Indiana, and so many other states keep embracing Republicanism and their church-oriented supporters, the public good will remain a pipe dream.

    This drive by churches to use public funds, it should be noted, is mostly a white-driven program. You don’t see very many poor people or people of color saying that public school money should go to church schools. There’s a reason for that. The institutionalized hopelessness of our national poverty is part of the capitalist machinery run by Republicans. These people have morphed from being fiscal conservatives to raving, right-wing fascists. Republicanism, like the Nazis, must be defeated in every way possible.

  10. I agree with this statement from Sheila, “Religious exemptions to civil rights laws allow them to impose such rules–when they are spending their own money.”

    That was always the determining line. Now that they receive public dollars, the line is blurred. The private schools want public dollars AND keep their privileges. This is cake, icing, and all the trimmings. And, they still get to interact in politics which has always been a legal sin for nonprofits.

    Why are Republicans catering to this base?

    Oh, silly me, it’s their Donor base and as studies have shown, there is an element of racism involved. MAGA is a symbol of racism. The parents who remove their kids from urban center public schools don’t want their kids attending schools with brown and black kids.

    The GOP has circumvented the laws to prevent segregation…that was always their plan. All the free market and parents choice verbiage is/was propaganda.

  11. seems the catholic diocese in owensboro ky, sent a bunch of students to dc to stand with the anti abortion stew… they fell over into the Native American protests. see vid,the diocese is a private owned institution, and im sure they want public money to.but as i remember from the past as a chatholic school kid,(my aunt was a nun across town at another school) we had a civics class, even at second grade,and was graded for it.being watched and taught by example,we were also graded. if this is any led up to any charter position for any school, to have students in public face,show the contemp these kids did, we have totally failed in teaching any student,at any institution. ill be frank, if he had done this in front of me,there would have been one call ,for an ambulance,and i would have taken the jail time,with a smile..we already have failed to see the past,and if it hasnt taught us,what we have done to the Native Americans,we have failed as citizens. I live in NoDak.. I stand with them as a white person..this was just a disgusting repeat of what i see everyday in Native America

  12. Even if private schools had civics taught by atheists, even if the standards of private schools were superior to those of public schools, even if the results showed that private school graduates performed better than those of public schools, still allocation of public funds for such private schools is in my view nonetheless unconstitutional from the beginning (or ab initio in lawyer lingo), and remains so irrespective of result.

    So how to treat such “even if” situations? Bring the public schools up to speed in re standards and performance based upon private school initiatives, treating the private schools’ superior performance as a Brandeisian “laboratory” of what works and what doesn’t from which to learn how to improve the educational outcomes of public school students.

    My point here is that we cannot make something constitutional that isn’t because tests and studies with whatever result are unrelated to the core issue of constitutionality. The present end-around attempts by state legislatures to hand out taxpayer money to private schools via statutes and twisted rules and regs should be contested in every jurisdiction where such attempts are made, and I applaud Forestal’s effort to uphold the constitution(s), and I think Jesus, who is said to have opined that we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s, thus approving the separation of church vs. state, would approve – but then, he wasn’t following the money.

  13. Not only do the private schools not have non-discriminatory hiring practices, they provide a legal means a racially segregating children.

  14. Gerald,

    “and I think Jesus, who is said to have opined that we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s, thus approving the separation of church vs. state, would approve – but then, he wasn’t following the money.”

    If Jesus was here today, I think he would do more than just “follow the money.” He would take on the DEVIANT ELITE like the Bush and Koch families since that is the only way he would have had “the last laugh.”

  15. Gerald,

    A good example of taking on the elite is my website at http://www.TheAlarmReport. Because of that Report, President George Bush backed off and allowed for the concept of 1 man, 1 vote to prevail. We all need to understand, the DEVIANT ELITE need to protect their NECKS, just like all the rest of us.

  16. In principle I am not against parental choice, nor against helping poor kids get to better schools, not even against tax money following the student. What I AM against is calling any place that opens its doors to children and teaches them something getting to be called a school. Such transfer of $ should only go where a real education is offered. And the fact is that many private schools (primarily religious schools, and particularly Protestant ones) cannot provide a true or world class education because their dogma cannot allow them to be honest about what humans have learned about cosmology, astronomy, biology, archaeology, paleontology, or geology.

  17. I would like to imagine those GOPers in the state house in Indy changing their tune once they realized that the tax dollars could fund a school for Muslim children and not a Christian one. Those hypocrites think that only their god is righteous and racist like them.

    I don’t want my tax dollars going to fund and maintain religious schools of any faith!! That’s what the separation of the church and state was founded for this country. I don’t much care to fund the military with my tax dollars either but that’s a whole nutter animal for another day.

    TAX THE CHURCHES!! Stop funding religious schools with our tax dollars that should go to the public schools so they can teach civics. Maybe we should require different history books that don’t literally whitewash our background here.

    That racist display in DC on Friday almost kept me up all night last night and I’m mad as hell at those privileged white catholic Maga(t) boys (aka Kavanaughs) and their b.s. toward the Native American Vet. What the Hell was that all about?

  18. We are all too nice; legislators are too civil; law enforcement is too gentle: these private schools that take tax payers dollars while violating standards and regulations intended (and in America’s national interest) to apply to public schools…are stealing from the government and from tax payers…stealing…stealing…stealing, as in organized crime activities.


  19. Larry – RICO upon a finding of guilty provides for a court-ordered taking of the defendants’ assets that resulted from the proven wrongdoings, and my problem is > What would we do with all these churches and liens on private dwellings where children were wrongly home-schooled on our dime? We could foreclose on the homes but what could we do with a cathedral? Anwer > negotiate cash payments on both homes and churches and return good title to their occupants/owners, though those with mortgages and little equity may have scant room to come up with the cash. I also foresee problems as between RICO orders and mortgagees if homeowners go for a chapter 7 bankruptcy, among other projected problems. Sometimes I wish I had never gone to law school.

  20. Gerald; convert them to housing for seniors, disabled, homeless or for those who are evicted to provide properties for gentrification…usually for out-of-state developers who are lured by tax incentives. Chapel areas could be maintained for universal religious organizations.

  21. Gerald,

    “Sometimes I wish I had never gone to law school.”

    You can’t deal with the DEVIANT ELITE in the courthouse. They have too much money.

  22. Gerald,

    From my experience, the way you defeat the DEVIANT ELITE is to find a weak link in their chain of command.

    That’s what we were able to do in Dallas.

    Likewise, Senator Joseph McCarthy was also finally defeated because of a weak link in his chain of command.

    As a former federal prosecutor, it was also the strategy that we used in conspiracy cases.

  23. I don’t know if anyone can answer this but would Catholic education survive in Indiana without vouchers? I live in NY, we don’t have vouchers and some Catholic schools are surviving but there’s no question that we are past the peak of theological influence.

    I think that’s the problem. We have a huge institution unable to adapt to a realistic future and it is thrashing around trying to avoid extinction without adaptation.

    In fact that same explanation works for much of the dysfunction that has overtaken us.

  24. It is not my job to support someone else’s religious choice or the education of those who CHOOSE to send their children to their schools. This government in Indiana and at the federal level is, in a strong sense, forcing millions of us to act against the Constitution by taking our tax dollars to pay for school vouchers. We are already supporting maintenance of their streets, sidewalks, sewer systems, police and fire protection due to their tax exempt status…a system more and more of us are beginning to speak out against. A number of us on this blog have stated repeatedly – tax the churches – and their extended properties and supporting organizations. Attending private and religious schools is a personal decision and should be paid for by the person making the decision.

    The survival of Catholic schools is the responsibility of the Catholic Archdiocese and their congregants…I am responsible for the survival of my property and I struggle to maintain it on barely above federal poverty level income. They are probably the wealthiest religious organization on earth; the only one which has its own city. The gold-domed Vatican is shameful in its display of gaudy wealth as small Catholic parish churches throughout the world struggle to support their parishioners.

    It is long past time for a change in the tax-exempt system for wealthy religions which have become major corporations along with health care and Big Pharma.

  25. Nancy and AgingLGrl…

    1) There was a suit against the voucher program when it first began. The Indiana Supreme Court found that because the voucher was given to the parent it was no longer public money, so it could be used without violating the separation of Church and State. Note: I do not agree with this decision and I am NOT trying to defend it.

    2) The last time I looked the percentage of private schools receiving voucher dollars in Indiana was more than 95% religious. There ARE Muslim schools which use vouchers. There are also Jewish schools which use vouchers. The vast majority (perhaps that’s the 90%), however, are some form of Christian school.

    Appendix B lists all the schools…Appendix C lists the amount each school gets. In the last school year (17-18) our local schools (Fort Wayne) lost more than $20 million to vouchers.

    Full disclosure: I’m a retired PUBLIC school teacher and work with a PUBLIC SCHOOL advocacy group ( We are not in favor of tax dollars going to private or privately run (aka charter) schools.

  26. Parochial schools preference enrollment of the children whose families are members of that church. The “right” children get first preference.

    After that, private schools can and do discriminate on the basis of test scores and disability and wealth. A Catholic school administrator testified to the Senate Education Committee that building ramps for children in wheelchairs was just too expensive. These same schools advertise on their websites that students will be tested for ‘placement’ in appropriate classes. Placement also can mean non-admission. And if a private school applicant hasn’t the funds for transportation to school or the other fees the school may require and the parents haven’t the financial freedom to volunteer at the school, that applicant will lose out to the applicant who has more financial wherewithal to avoid those problems.

    Yes voucher schools discriminate for a variety of reasons in addition to LGBT status. They FIERCELY fight legislative attempts to require non-discrimination that would treat children of ALL taxpayers equally. Their own church doctrine and members will always come first which is fine when using their own money. It’s NOT acceptable when they are using funds from ALL taxpayers.

  27. I am a outsider here,and im interested in the law and lawyers view on many items, today was a great talk about the many sides of what ifs. and many had very deep insight to the above matter. thanks. i enjoy this conversation,though i am a working class, im actully in the streets,where this shit happens..i hope i dont offend,but im always trying to give and get ideas on matters i am involved in,and this one is thorn,and a cheap slant against public education,to allow our taxes for profit schools,,, I hope after 2020, we can again breathe as one nation,as close as we can wishes..

  28. Firstly, I fully support Forestal’s legislation. But the premise of the purpose of the legislation is faulty. He’s saying that schools that accept vouchers should have to follow the same rules in hiring as public schools. What he and many others forget is that it is still completely legal for public schools to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in the majority of districts in the state.

  29. Chad Heck; thanks for that reminder. I’m guessing that most people in the state of Indiana thought Pence’s RFRA resolved the religion/LGBTQ “problem” but have no idea it only created more problems…for both sides. Nor did or do they realize that the vast majority of this state still upholds denial of LGBTQ rights for a person’s religious beliefs or that only 11 areas of the state protects them. When Republican Mayor Ballard saw what Pence’s RFRA actually entailed; he realized Indianapolis/Marion County area was not one of the 10 areas protecting their rights and it would severely effect tourism here. He, in fact, received notification from some of our regular convention organizations were threatening to move elsewhere. He quickly got a law passed which made Indianapolis/Marion County area #11 in the state where LGBTQs were provided SOME protection. I have seen nothing to change that limited situation for Indiana residents and don’t expect to see change as long as Republicans rule this state and the entire nation.

  30. I went to TCU in Fort Worth for 7 years (61-68). We took no funds from government sources in those days. However, there was no “indoctrination” in our classes which were taught by competent professors who spoke of history honestly. After I left and TCU started taking federal money, Biblical studies were not required (only one class was required when I was there), but available. Ethics, philosophy and other courses for healthy societies were taught with expertise.
    Nowadays religious schools do not know what competency means. There are no teachers who are are capable of teaching things like evolution, ethics or history without twisting the content into a fishing reel backlash. To think private schools are going to live up to public standards is a pipe dream. The pipe is filled with the “opiate of the people.”

  31. Starting in the Bush controlled Reagan admin, Marxist influenced B.F. Skinner Common core outcome social engineered education came into being and has led to a generation of millennial dim-wits.
    We must revert back to a classic liberal arts education like the post ww2 generation received.

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