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Publicly funded religion for me, not for thee

Ian Sane/Flickr

I've been keeping an eye on Louisiana's new school voucher scheme this week, which is under fire for offering taxpayer money to sketchy, unaccountable private schools, some of which don't appear to have curricula at all.

But that's not the only problem plaguing Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) program. This week, a Republican state lawmaker who had backed the voucher system decided to change her mind. Apparently, she thought public funding for religious education was a great idea, right up until she learned that her religion wasn't the only one that might benefit.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal's overhaul of the state's educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools. [...]

"I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,' Hodges said. Hodges mistakenly assumed that "religious" meant "Christian." [...]

"Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders' religion," Hodges said. "We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana."

It's funny how that happens. Voucher proponents' first thought: "Never mind the First Amendment and Thomas Jefferson's wall of separation between church and state; using taxpayer money to finance religious indoctrination is a great idea." Voucher proponents' second thought: "Wait, you mean religions I don't like might get my money?"

As my friend, Rob Boston explained, "Hodges' bigotry is perhaps only rivaled by her ignorance of constitutional and legal principles. Of course Muslim schools will qualify for funding under a voucher plan. When programs like this are set up that dole out benefits to religious schools, the government can't play favorites. That's basic."

It is, indeed. If conservatives prefer a system in which churches, temples, and mosques start schools that rely on private, voluntary payments from their congregants, they'll need to forget about voucher plans like the one in Louisiana.

(Image: Ian Sane/Flickr)