Louisiana Rep. Valarie Hodges supported HB 976, a bill that among other things authorizes the use of public funds to support religious schools. (It refers only to “private” or “charter” schools, but according to the report 124 of the 125 schools that have applied for public funds have “some sort of religious affiliation.”) The bill passed and the law takes effect August 1. But now Hodges is rethinking her vote after learning, to her horror, that Muslims want to benefit from the law, too.
According to the report, “Hodges mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.'”
“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” Hodges said. “Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion…. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”
She needs some work on the fundamentals herself.
Yes, the Founders were Christian—depending on what you mean by “Founders” and what you mean by “Christian.” If you limit “Founders” to guys who signed something, it seems they were all Christian, but if you are willing to define it as something like “heroes of the Revolution,” you will also find (gasp!) some Jews in that category. Of the Founders Who Signed Something, some were deists (i.e., not “Christian” the way Hodges means it), and the more traditional Christians were all over the map. Even if Hodges in Her wisdom would recognize all the Christian denominations as “religions,” I doubt she would be too keen on Thomas Jefferson, for example, who wrote his own version of the Bible, for Christ’s sake. (He actually cut and pasted it, but still.)
Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear, and he would not be a fan of that creep Valarie Hodges.
— Thomas Jefferson, 1787
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens ….
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none like Valarie Hodges to make him afraid.
They were certainly not the only Founders to think that favoring one religion over another was a bad idea. Why might they have thought that, I wonder?
The centuries immediately before and contemporaneous with the colonization of America had been filled with turmoil, civil strife and persecutions, generated in large part by established sects determined to maintain their absolute political and religious supremacy. With the power of government supporting them, at various times and places, Catholics had persecuted Protestants, Protestants had persecuted Catholics, Protestant sects had persecuted other Protestant sects, Catholics of one shade of belief had persecuted Catholics of another shade of belief, and all of these had from time to time persecuted Jews…. [M]en and women had been fined, cast in jail, cruelly tortured, and killed. Among the offenses for which these punishments had been inflicted were such things as speaking disrespectfully of the views of ministers of government-established churches, non-attendance at those churches, expressions of nonbelief in their doctrines, and failure to pay taxes and tithes to support them.
These practices of the old world were transplanted to, and began to thrive in, the soil of the new America…. Catholics found themselves hounded and proscribed because of their faith; Quakers who followed their conscience went to jail; Baptists were peculiarly obnoxious to certain dominant Protestant sects; men and women of varied faiths who happened to be in a minority in a particular locality were persecuted because they steadfastly persisted in worshipping God only as their own consciences dictated. And all of these dissenters were compelled to pay tithes and taxes to support government-sponsored churches ….
These practices became so commonplace as to shock the freedom-loving colonials into a feeling of abhorrence. The people … reached the conviction that individual religious liberty could be achieved best under a government which was stripped of all power to tax, to support, or otherwise to assist any or all religions, or to interfere with the beliefs of any religious individual or group, and which did not include bigoted dopes like Valarie Hodges.
Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).
I’m not taking any position on school vouchers, because to the extent I understand that debate I think it can be argued both ways. But if it’s okay for Christian-flavored schools to benefit from a program, then other religions get to do so too, regardless of what you think of them.