Religion in School
Apparently, there is a taxpayer funded Islamic school in Minneapolis. Students are reportedly forced to participate in Islamic prayers, are supervised by teachers during their ritual washings, and fast during Ramadan. While the school denies the charges, it has refused to let reporters tour the school. It is very probable that this school did violate the law, and incorporated Islamic ceremonies and services into its school day.
The school will probably get investigated, and will get into trouble if any of these charges are proved true. Since it is taxpayer funded, any endorsement of religion is impermissible.
On the right, many conservative bloggers and writers are outraged. Michelle Malkin claimed that it represented the beginning of the implementation of sharia law in America. Ed Morrissey called the school a “maddrassa”. This school was mentioned disapprovingly by Ace, Stop the ACLU, and the Corner, among others. Most conservatives seem to think that our tax dollars should not subsidize such a school.
I don’t mind—as long as all religions are represented. Of course, any Christian denomination that even attempted to incorporate any shred of its beliefs into a state-funded charter school would instantly be sued by the ACLU. If a Christian group had attempted to promote Christianity on the taxpayer’s dime, it would be instantly stripped of its funding. There is a clear double standard—a Christian school that promoted its religion would have been treated entirely differently.
But double standards aside, publicly funded religious schools are actually a pretty good idea. Public schools, as a rule, aren’t exactly effective. No Child Left Behind didn’t work, and our education system is not effectual. We must take whatever steps necessary to improve it.
And if such steps involve state-funded religious schools, what of it? Liberals point to the constitutionally mandated “wall of separation of church between church and state”. That phrase is not actually in the Constitution (the real phrase is: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” which is quite different). Neither of these phrases should ban religious charter schools. The language in both is clearly meant to prevent the founding of some Church of America, not to prevent religious groups from receiving government funds.
Funds for religious organizations should not be granted liberally. Generally, minimal contact between church and state is best for both groups. This prevents government from attempting to run the Church, and preserves the freedom given to each individual to practice his or her religion.
However, funds should be granted, in some cases, to religious charter schools. If, say, a Muslim school, a Protestant school, and Catholic school in the same community all receive state funds, is the government favoring any one religion or abridging anyone’s right to practice their freedom of conscience? The “wall of separation between church and state” (although not in the Constitution) is usually good policy. However, there are occasional circumstances in which government can provide funds to churches to advance the common good. Given that in many cases, government run education is an unmitigated disaster, is it such a bad idea to give religious organizations a chance?