Friday, October 17, 2008

2008 Elections and School Choice

One issue that affects the Orthodox Jewish community very strongly is the issue of yeshiva tuition. Even those with upper middle class income make huge sacrifices for their children's Jewish education that reduce their income and living standard drastically. As a community, we make great sacrifices for Jewish continuity, paying taxes for public schools while maintaining our own educational institutions.

Although political conservatives are far less dogmatic in their interpretation of church-state separation, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome before we are likely to see tuition vouchers, tax credits or any other form of relief from the expense of maintaining Jewish schools .

One issue likely to face the Supreme Court is the issue of church state separation. It was only in 1875 that the Blaine Amendment was passed in a xenophobic attempt to stifle the formation of religious schools catering to Catholic immigrants. The amendment would have become an amendment to the US constitution except for the fact that it fell four votes short in the Senate of a two thirds majority. The amendment reads as follows.

"No State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect; nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations."

Although the amendment failed in Congress, it did far better in state legislatures. All but eleven states passed their own versions of the Blaine amendment.

America was almost a century old before it banned private schools from receiving government funds. Contrary to popular belief it was not the Supreme Court who erected the wall of separation between church and state. It was elected legislators who were moved by the passions and prejudices of their times.

It is ironic that one of the central canons of liberal orthodoxy, church state separation, is the residue of bigotry towards Irish and Eastern European immigrants. In an odd twist, Protestants, Catholics and Jews who once lived behind walls of social separation are now finding common cause in defending their contested rights to equality before the law in the matter of tax disbursements.

However much longer our struggle might last for tuition vouchers, the struggle will last much longer if Obama is elected. The issue of Jewish education and religious education in general is a critical topic that is too seldom discussed. The party that is "pro choice" when it comes to abortion is anti choice when it comes to education. Our choice in November could not be clearer.
You are voting for the Supreme Court as well as for President. It is a choice you might live with for decades. Make it carefully. Sphere: Related Content

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