Another question

by Vijayendra Rao | 10/20/00 5:00am

To the Editor:

I'd like to address the Point/Counterpoint feature in Wednesday's issue dealing with school vouchers. The better question to ask instead of "Would vouchers violate the separation of church and state?" would be to ask "Will vouchers violate the First Amendment of the Constitution?" There is a distinct difference between the two. The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The phrase "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution.

The reason this is an important distinction is because while vouchers may take general government funds and invest them in religiously affiliated schools in some instances, there is no inherent "establishment" of one religion over another. As long as vouchers are "faith blind" in that they are not directed to one particular faith, and as long as vouchers are not intended to go to only religiously affiliated schools, then they do not violate the constitution. In essence, if parents can use a school voucher in any type of school, public, private, parochial or charter, then the state is not "establishing" one religion over another, or the idea that religion is better than secularism or vice versa. Vouchers do not inherently discriminate against or in favor of religion.

Another question many ask is "Is the reading of a separation of church and state in violation of the Constitution because it 'establishes' state sanctioned secularism over faith?" One for another issue, perhaps?

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