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Maryland Case Reveals Religious Discrimination in Education

August 20, 2019 in Economics

By Neal McCluskey

Neal McCluskey

If government says that you are free to believe in something,
but not to act on it, you are not truly free. That reality lies at
the heart of a federal lawsuit filed by the Bethel Christian
Academy against the state of Maryland, which kicked the academy out
of a private school voucher program for having policies consistent
with the school’s religious values. Such unequal treatment is
unacceptable.

Immediately at issue are the school’s policies requiring that
students and staff behave in ways consistent with the idea of
marriage being between a man and a woman, and an individual’s
proper gender being the one assigned at birth. The state maintains
that those policies are discriminatory against LGBTQ individuals
and that allowing public money – school vouchers from the state’s
BOOST program – to flow to Bethel Christian is unacceptable.

The state’s position is totally understandable: All people
should be treated equally when government is involved. The problem
is that the state government is not treating religious people
equally – a problem in the public education system not just in
Maryland, but in every state in the country.

It would be better if
Maryland had a scholarship tax credit program than a voucher. Then
taxpayers could choose to direct their education dollars to
religious institutions and get a credit for it, rather than all
taxpayers having some sliver go to religious institutions, like it
or not.

How does the current education system discriminate against
religious people? Everyone is forced to pay for public schools -
government run and funded schools – but those institutions cannot
be religious in nature. They can teach about religion, but even
that is very difficult because public schools must not be perceived
as even incidentally promoting any religious precepts, much less
being openly guided by them. In other words, non-religious people
can get the education they want from the government schools for
which they must pay, but religious people cannot.

There is an excellent reason for prohibiting the endorsement of
religion by public schools: In a diverse society, it would
inevitably end up with government favoring one person’s religion
over another’s. Indeed, for much of our history public schools did
exactly that, typically favoring Protestantism over Catholicism,
Judaism, atheism and so on. The current system no longer favors
Protestantism, instead favoring secularism over religion, a
violation of government’s mandate to be neutral with regard to
religion. Most famously, a public school can teach that the theory
of evolution is true, but not creationism, a religious
explanation.

If government can neither favor nor disfavor religion, what is
it to do? As long as it is going to fund …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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