Public Aid to Religious Schools -- Is It Right?
Public Aid To Religious Schools -- Is It Right?
June 15, 2020
The U.S. Supreme has announced that it will examine a Louisiana case which
many say is at the heart of a major state-church separation issue --
government financial assistance to religious schools. The Clinton
administration wants to ensure that students attending private and sectarian
schools have access to computers and other high-tech equipment.
Supporters of such assistance argue that the money or equipment provided
by the government benefits students rather than the school, and does not
advance religion in any way. But critics insist that it impossible to really
distinguish between efforts to help individual students, and the overall aid
to the school. What do you think?
It's not a new debate in America. Beginning in 1855, Massachusetts and
other states adopted constitutional provisions forbidding the granting of
public funds to denominational or sectarian institutions. President Ulysses
S. Grant urged respective states to "Encourage free schools and resolve that
not one dollar of the money appropriated to their support shall be
appropriated to the support of any sectarian school." He added, "Leave the
matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and private schools
entirely supported by private contributions. Keep the church and state
In 1890, though, Archbishop John Ireland, in a speech to the National
Education Association, proposed that government subsidize general
nonsectarian education in parochial (Roman Catholic) schools, leaving to the
church the expense of providing the religious education. What followed over
the years were various experiments to use public money "only" for
non-religious items or activities in the schools, such as reimbursement of
transportation costs, textbooks, or special-needs teachers. No state monies
were to be directly used to teach religion. As a result, some public schools
even implemented "released time," which allowed certain students to leave the
public school and go to a local church or other venue in order to receive
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