The Jan. 20 New York Times reports something that is absolutely unbelievable, even in the American South. School tax credit “scholarships”, which are basically taxpayer subsidized ways to pay for private schooling, are being used in Georgia to send students which have strict and explicit anti-gay policies. (These vouchers come from donations of private organizations, which then receive tax credits.)
The schools are, of course, religious:
At issue is an increasingly popular tax credit program that transforms state money into private school scholarships, some of them used at religious-based schools that prohibit gay, lesbian or bisexual students from attending.
The policies at more than 100 such schools are explicit.
The 400 students at a private school in Woodstock, for example, must adhere to a policy that states, “Homosexual behavior, whether an ‘immoral act’ or ‘identifying statement,’ is incompatible with enrollment at Cherokee Christian Schools and is a basis for dismissal.”
A male student at the Shiloh Hills Christian School in Kennesaw, who utters “I like boys” or “I am a homosexual” will be expelled.
And at the 800-student Providence Christian Academy 20 miles north of Atlanta, a student who is gay, lesbian or bisexual or supports people who are could be kicked out.
At least 115 religious-based schools in Georgia have severe antigay policies, according to a report issued this month by the Southern Education Foundation. Public information about the scholarship program is limited by law, so the number is probably much higher, according to the foundation, which was founded in 1867 to improve education for poor children in the South.
Now this is clearly publicly-subsidized education, because those organizations providing such scholarship pay less taxes. And it’s publicly-subsidized discrimination against gays. Even some Georgia legislators recognize that:
“We are circumventing our own public policy with public money,” said State Representative Stacey Abrams, the leader of the Democratic minority in the House. “In our public schools, we do not disallow a child from attending on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
“If this were to be happening at any public school,” she said, “the lawsuit would be great and the settlement extraordinary.”
We need a lawsuit, but according to the Times article nobody has yet come forward (though one person got a settlement): you need “standing” to bring such a suit, which means that you need to show your rights have been abrogated by this policy. Ideally, you’d want a gay kid who was either denied a scholarship or kicked out of school because he said “I like boys” (OMG).
And the excuse of the politicians and school administrators who favor this project is pathetic:
School administrators, legislators and parents who prefer an education based on a specific biblical moral code say the program helps the state save money. Children whose families might not otherwise be able to afford private school tuition get an accredited education at less cost to the state than if the student stayed in public school.
And, they argue, the scholarship program is not discriminatory because it is open to all kinds of schools that might have different philosophical foundations than state-run public schools. It is a matter of choice and religious freedom, they say.
“You can be a Jewish school. You can be a Muslim school. It’s the same as a Catholic school or if I wanted to go to an all-girls school or a homosexual school,” said Claudia Hunt, who runs admissions for the Providence Christian Academy, a kindergarten-through-12th-grade school in Lilburn.
“That is why we are independent schools,” she said. “We all have different missions.”
First of all, these scholarships are overwhelmingly for Christian schools; I doubt that any of the scholarships have been given for Muslim schools, and probably few, if any, for Jewish schools. And for crying out loud, “homosexual schools”? Where are they? But the point is that government money should not be used to subsidize any form of discrimination (I am conflicted about all-girl or all-boy schools because, in the end, those involve discrimination too). Yes, the scholarship program is not discriminatory against schools, except that most religious schools in the South are Christian, and you don’t have a choice if you go to school near home. These scholarships should not only be prohibited for schools that discriminate against gays, but also for schools that provide religious education for kids (aka child abuse). After all, that involves taxpayers subsidizing faith.
h/t: Miss May