Vouchers and SOCAS

This is inspired by the current voucher debate.

David B noted that his primary objection to vouchers was Seperation of Church and State issues. He qualified this further to state that he would not necessarily endorse vouchers given an absence of the issue, though.

I maintain that vouchers should not be considered as primarily a Socas issue. Certainly there are complex issues that need to be hashed out.

Normally, I would beleive that a parochial school should receive no Federal funds whatsoever.

Given, for purposes of this discussion that some public schools are failing in their responsibility to teach our children at a minimally acceptable level, and that religious issues aside, vouchers are a valid emergency solution to this problem, then it seems foolish to me to deny aid from this quarter, based simply that in addition to the secular role of education a parochial school also has a religious mission.

A voucher program which excluded parochial schools would be discriminatory.

Consider a sick nun. Would we deny her medicare on SOCAS principles on the grounds that funding her health would further her religious mission? Of course not. She is a person as well as a nun.

These are schools as well as religious institutions.

As always, David B provide thoughtful links:

Thoughtful link

From that link:

This is slightly misleading as the first case is not a voucher program.

It is true that the U.S. Supreme court has never upheld voucher programs relating to SOCAS, However neither have they ruled against them. The U.S. Supreme Court remains undecided on the issue.

In fact, several state supreme courts have upheld the constitutionality of voucher money going to parochial schools, notably Wisconsin.

The above assertions are supported by this link which IMO presents a reasonably balanced take on both sides of the issue.

The primary issue to me is that of entanglement. Just as the State may not support religious organizations, such religious organizations are protected from Government interference. Accountability, necesitates entanglement. How to maintain accountability without impinging upon these organizations religious freedom, or have public students attend such a school without impinging on their religious freedoms?

While a complex and thorny issue, entanglement does not in my mind represent an insurmountable barrier.

Pertinent quotes from both sides of the issue from my link:

This from someone who says that providing money to groups that perform abortions is the same as paying for abortions, because it frees up money to pay for abortion. If we give a nun money for health care, does that not free up some of her money to pay for a new church? It’s amazing how people can evaluate the validity of an argument simply on the basis of whether it agrees with their position.

The Ryan:

I don’t beleive you debate sincerely, and as far as I’m concerned, you’ve used up any good will which might entitle you to the benefit of the doubt.

The fact that you’ve chosen to post a thinly veiled accusation of hypocrisy, rather than ask a question reinforces the viewpoint that you are simply trolling, as does the slightly creepy stalking you’ve begun.

There are numerous possibilities why one might have seemingly disparate opinions on these two seperate and complex issues. I can see no benefit and have no interest in debating them with you.

If you feel strongly and wish to discuss my seeming hypocrisy at length and in detail, I suggest you start another thread to do so, as whether or not my beliefs are hypocritical has nothing to do with the merits of my arguments as confined to this thread.

I would only like to discuss issues related to the topic at hand in this thread, and would appreciate it if you would cease and desist.

I hope that clarifies my stance, even if it doesn’t, I have no intention in feeding your need for attention.

I’ve only gone to this length in responding so that others may understand my stance in the event you continue to disrupt, and I simply ignore you. Which I will.

This from someone who refused to answer a direct question, and insulted me when I pointed it out.

Must all posts be phrased in the form of a question? Is this an episode of Jeopardy or something? There is nothing “trollish” about pointing out that someone’s position contradicts their previous statements, nor am I “stalking” you.

I am not discussing your opinions on the two issues, I am discussing the principle behind the opinions. The principle is the same in both cases, yet you have one attitude towards the principle in one case, and a different attitude in another.

If you lack interest in responding to legitimate points, you are free to not participate in this board. Pretending to be interested in debate and then flatly refusing to discuss your position is silly.

Of course it does. If your argument had merits in the abortion thread, then it surely has merits here. If you can not present a reason why your argument does not apply to this issue, then that seriously weakens your position.

So why don’t you discuss the issue of why your own argument does not apply?

My need for attention? Just who was it that started a thread proclaiming his dedication to reasonable debate (and is doing his best to ignore his own advice)?

Nowhere in the Constitution does it specifically say anything about “Separation of Church and State”. It says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” in the first amendment. It all depends how you interpret that.

Why would it be considered unconstitutional to have voucher programs that support all religious private schools equally? The government isn’t establishing a religion.

Why would it be considered unconstitutional to have voucers for just Christian schools are just Jewish schools? The Constitution doesn’t specifically say that either.

The only reason it is considered unconstitutional is because liberal Supremes decided the Constitution says that the government shouldn’t support ANY religion.

What would be the limit to funding for religious schools. Would public money be available for funding for schools founded by Satanists for instance?


I don’t think attacking liberals on this issue will do anything but polarize it. I for one certainly recognize that “entangling” government through accountability in a parochial school, can easily lead to passing law with respect to religion.

Such could just as easily impinge upon the religious freedoms of the parochial school as it could result in Government favoritism of parochial schools. Either, in my opinion would be very bad.

I believe it’s a tightrope that we wouldn’t want to walk, except for the sorry state of many public schools. In the best interests of children’s educations, it may be worth attempting that walk.

Well if you refused it Satanic schools who otherwise would qualify, and gave it to, say, Catholic schools, then I think this would be both discriminatory and in violation of SOCAC.

So, yes, it would have to be available for them as well.

Scylla: I wasn’t attacking liberals, just saying it was a liberal (Not necessarily Democratic) Court that decided SOCAS was how it should be. I think it would be equally bad for a conservative (Not necessarily Republican) Court to favor one religion over another (While not establishing one as an official religion).

You’re right, it is a fine line, and I’m not sure exactly how I stand with the issue. I would support vouchers (If implemented correctly) for a few reasons:

I went to a public middle school. It was the WORST educating environment. I didn’t learn a thing, and had a 2.0 GPA consistently.

I go to a Catholic high school. I don’t like the religious aspect, but the learning environment is excellent.

Now, if the government wanted to send students to a better learning environment for certain reasons, I think they should be allowed to do so. A lot less kids would be getting screwed over in the public system (I’m speaking about LA public system as a very good example of this).

However, if the Gov. were to do this to immerse kids in a religious environment, the Gov. can crawl back in their hole and shuddup.

Well that is a principled stand but I suspect it would pretty much kill public acceptance of voucher proposals for religious schools. I suspect most people would prefer the status quo to one where Satanism is taught with their tax dollars.

I don’t necessarily see why religious schools have to brought into the picture. Why not have public-schools vouchers which can be redeemed only at public schools. This will supply much of the competitive pressure needed to improve public schools while at the same time being much more politically acceptable. It might not be a perfect solution but seems a reasonable compromise which those who are genuinely interested in improving schools as opposed to pushing some kind of agenda should agree on.


Didn’t mean to accuse you, just trying to be careful that this doesn’t turn into a those damn liberals vs. those damn conservative threads.

Your experience provides worthwhile insight.

I went to a Catholic middle school. Our Math, Science and Social Studies teachers were not Catholic, Our English and Religion teachers were.

During religion class, our noncatholic students could either attend or get an extra recess at their parents’ discretion. Far from being discriminated against, they were pretty much envied this benefit.

When I went to Public High School, I was basically 2 years ahead of the curve due to the quality of the education.

Don’t congratulate me too much, as I seriously doubt there’s any Satanic grade schools out there. I would agree that if the quality of education can be maintained with Public Schools alone, it should. It seems to me that the problem exists because there are no good public schools in some areas, so this might not be a viable option.

Well the point is that once you have public school choice then competitive pressures would force some improvement. If you read the Economist there is an interesting article in the Economic Focus about an econometric study which finds that cities with lots of school districts (which is a proxy for public school choice) do better than those with fewer school districts. So you could plausibly expect some improvement even in places where the public schools are very bad right now.

If you are serious about being concerned with potential SOCAS problems I think you should explore plausible alternatives which could improve public school education first.

If public choice vouchers fail you could try private school vouchers for all except parochial schools.
I just don’t buy your general argument that :
“A voucher program which excluded parochial schools would be discriminatory.”
So what? That is the point. Many people don’t want their tax dollars going to religious schools. This is pretty similar to people who don’t want their tax dollars to fund abortions. That is also strictly speaking a discriminatory practice but presumably not an unreasonable one.


You make good points. There are several other threads on vouchers around. For purposes of this thread, as I more or less (maybe less :frowning: ) mentioned, I’d like to assume that vouchers that extend to include pivate schools are a given.

Should parochial schools be excluded due to SOCACS considerations, or can the tightrope be walked.

Scylla, not to repeat myself unduly from the other thread, but I feel that a cite I gave there about the Milwaukee voucher program is relevant here, to wit:

A 1999 article notes that a number of Milwaukee schools were being investigated for violation of the admissions and civil liberties requirements stipulated by the voucher program:

Most of the violations mentioned there are SOCAS issues, and to my mind they illustrate very well the chief SOCAS problem with voucher programs. Even if we can set it up so that merely giving them the money isn’t a SOCAS violation (in the same way that letting public school teachers give classes in parochial schools has been ruled not to be—cite if you want it), the whole prospect is a vast breeding ground for SOCAS violations in its implementation. As I pointed out in the other thread, vouchers essentially involve requiring religious schools to be able to give some students a religious education and others a secular one. Not every religious school is going to be capable of that, and many who sincerely make the effort will fail, and there will be lawsuits out the wazoo, resulting ultimately in undesirable insertion of sectarian religion into publicly funded education and equally undesirable interference by government in the educational practices of private schools.

And as for whether even giving them the money is a SOCAS violation, I am not privy to the prior history of the dispute between you and The Ryan (and don’t want to be). But it seemed to me that his original point in this thread was pretty much on the money. That is, if giving money for a purpose other than providing abortions to an institution that also provides abortions is unacceptable because it frees up more of their money to provide abortions—then why is it acceptable to give money for a purpose other than religious proselytizing to an institution that also carries out religious proselytizing, since it will free up more of their money for religious proselytizing? I am not accusing anyone of hypocrisy, but I could use an explanation of why you don’t consider these cases to be parallel, because they look pretty parallel to me.

(And by the way Monster, it is not really true that the “strict separationist” interpretation of the Establishment Clause is an invention of “liberal Supreme Court justices.” There are plenty of eighteenth-century documents testifying to opinions of many of the Founders that preventing “establishment of religion” required exactly the sort of separationist principles that “liberal justices” earlier in this century articulated. These days, of course, the SC is getting less liberal on establishment clause issues.)

Well the point is: Why bother to walk the tightrope at all if you can achieve the fundamental objective of improving schools without vouchers for parochial schools?

For instance doesn’t this discriminate against religious denominations which are more geographically dispersed. Consider a denomination which is heavily concentrated in one area and can therefore sustain several purely denominational schools in that area. Compare that to another denomination which is equal in population but much more dispersed so there isn’t a “critical mass” to support even one school. Both groups are paying the same taxes and are equally numerous but only one gets funding for their schools. I don’t know whether such disparities in geographical distribution exist but it is an example of potential problems.


The violations you raise are unfortunate. The final quote in my OP suggests that if a parochial school wishes to accept voucher, they must be willing to scale back their religious activities.

Those schools that did not comply deserve to be fined or punished for their activities, and perhaps to forfeit their participation in the voucher programs as well provided their is substance to the accusations.

As for the similarity between this issue and abortion, the primary reason for the disparity in my opinions is that the government’s failure in their responsibility to provide children with minimally acceptable educations, and those children’s rights to a good education merit an extreme measure that we would otherwise not take (as I mentioned in the OP.)

The government does not overtly have the same responsibilities to the citizens of other countries as they do to this one.

Organizations that receive US aid abroad do so as a privilege. Education in this country is (or should be a right.)

Apparently only two organizations stand to be affected by the abortion ruling. The argument was made (badly IMHO,) that withholding funds from these organizations would result in countless deaths. In order to accept that argument one would need to prove that the funds withheld were irrevocably lost, and could not be recovered by other organizations that were in compliance, and that the slack in the loss of services by those organizations could not be picked up by different organizations. No such compelling argument was provided IMO, so my stance remained unchanged.

Had both the irretrievable loss of funds, and the no pickup of slack criteria been met, than I would have conceded that the greater good suggests that if there is no way to to provide these services without also aiding abortions, than we should do so reluctantly.

For purposes of the Op, we are assuming that the Government responsibilities of SOCAS and educating it’s citizens are in direct conflict with each other due to the failure of the Public School system, and vouchers to private schools are a necessary measure.

Which one takes precedence, SOCAS or education?

Additionally, the withholding of funds to foreign aid organizations is a matter of government policy.

SOCAS is law. Government should neither support nor deter people in their religious freedoms. If vouchers are given to private, but non parochial schools only, the financial incentive may lure students away from those schools who were already attending them. That doesn’t trouble me too much, but what does is the Government giving choice to families because its failure in its reponsibilities, but then limiting those choices based on religious affiliation alone.

There are other reasons as well, and I could go on, but I hope that suffices. If you need more, perhaps a different thread is in order.


You shouldn’t. One of the underlying assumptions here is that you can’t, without funding private schools. Can parochial schools be legitimately excluded under these circumstances? Depending on how you look at it SOCAS either says you can’t, or that you have to. Granted the extreme measures mandated by the Government’s failure in education, I think it would be foolhardy and dangerous to further lessen the chances of a child to realize his educational right, by further limiting choices that should never have to be made in the first place.

Yes it does, but again we’re talking about an extreme measure.

If there’s a flood in Florida, and the only safe spot is a parochial high school gym, and that gym offers itself as shelter, it would seem kind of stupid to turn it down and let people suffer because a different denomination in Georgia does haven’t equal access to a state funded sleepover.

Scylla, as I indicated in the previous thread, I don’t have time to give this the full attention it deserves. However, let me make a few fly-by comments.

You said:

True, but…

There were some Wiccans who talked loudly about how they were going to form Wiccan schools when California was considering a voucher program a few years back (I can’t point to which time, since I think they’ve tried at least a couple times). Suddenly and coincidentally, what had been a solid rock of Christians favoring vouchers turned into a big loss for the program. It seems that many people did feel just as CyberPundit suggested: What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.

And speaking of that, I do think The Ryan has a good point (though he may have not used the best example by following up with your nun). Some religious proponents of vouchers claim they will use the money for non-proselytizing parts of their program. The problem is how to define that and, as indicated, even if they do manage to find a way to do it, that just means a shift in their books. But is science class non-proselytizing? Well, you’d think so, but some schools teach creationism. What about History class? Depends on how they teach about religions in history. The fact is that some (many?) religious schools have religious input at every turn.

I’m glad you went over to check out those links I gave you.

David B:

Re: Wiccans

They would have as much a legitimate right to open a parochial school as anyone IMO. For me, if it was the choice between an inferior education at a Public School or a superior education at a Wiccan school for my daughter, I would send her to the latter provided of course that our religious differences were respected.

Re: Funding

Recieving Federal funds would of course be a benefit to the parochial schools. This would be a necessary evil, given an emergency measures situation. I think the right to an education supersedes the responsibility of the Governent to maintain Socas.

Given these parochial schools’ willingness to scale back their religious activities (which admittedly may be a hell of a given,) for the greater good and education of our children, then I think it would be foolish in the extreme to turn our back on this resource, Biting off your nose to spite your face so to speak.

Given a repair of the Public school systems the voucher program should be phased out rather quickly.

From the OP:

This is all beside the point. What the Supreme Court has ruled on, unanimously, is that direct government aid to religious schools is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Period. They did so in 1971, in Lemon v. Kurtzman. That case created a three-pronged standard for withstanding establishment clause violations which remains the standard today. To wit:

  1. The law must have a secular legislative purpose.

  2. The main effect of the law must neither advance no inhibit religion.

  3. The law must not foster “an excessive government entanglement with religion.”

The three cases which ended up before the Court in Lemon came from Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, and involved laws requiring the states to pay, in whole or in part, the salaries of parochial school teachers who were teaching secular subjects. That last part is very important, because the Court found that entanglement was unavoidable in this case, since the legislature “…has not, and could not, provide state aid on the basis of a mere assumption that secular teachers under religious discipline can avoid conflicts. The State must be certain, given the Religion Clauses, that subsidized teachers do not inculcate
religion.” Therefore, “…comprehensive, discriminating, and continuing state surveillance will inevitably be
required to ensure that these restrictions [on religious utilization of aid] are obeyed and the First Amendment otherwise respected.”

I strongly recommend that everyone posting to the thread read the full text at the link above, because it bears directly on this issue.

Scylla, when you say “. . . it seems foolish to me to deny aid from this quarter, based simply that in addition to the secular role of education a parochial school also has a religious mission . . .”, well, that’s exactly what the Court did base their decision on. You cannot separate the religious mission of a religious school from its educational mission. And as far as the parallel between this and the abortion thing, please note that in his concurring decision, Justice Douglas wrote (among other things that address this topic):

He also wrote:

The rest of your posts sound suspiciously like “the ends justify the means,” a philosophy with which I do not and cannot agree. If vouchers do not represent direct government aid to schools, I don’t know what does.

For the edification of Monster104 and everyone else, the seven Justices voting unanimously to establish this modern standard were Warren Burger, Byron White, Hugo Black, William Douglas, John Harlan, Potter Stewart, and Thurgood Marshall. We can all decide individually who is liberal and who is not.