Allow me to start this conversation by saying that though I realize that the separation between church and state is not absolute, its importance cannot be denied. By keeping government out of religion, this separation also keeps religion out of government.
This is where some have a misconceived belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation or that religion should interfere with government. The research for my book “A Christian Nation?” found no evidence to prove that religion was a mainstay neither for the original colonization nor for the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation or the Constitution.
In these documents, “God” is mentioned once, but as “Nature’s God,” not a Jewish/Christian/Muslim God.
“Religion” is mentioned three times: once in the Articles of Confederation concerning mutual defense (Section III), in the Constitution concerning qualifications to hold office (Article VI, Clause 3) and in the First Amendment.
“Lord” is mentioned once.
Jesus, Christ, Christianity, Christian, Jewish, Jew, Islam and Muslim do not appear.
So what does this have to do with Missouri’s Senate Joint Resolution 47? The summary of the bill states: “This proposed constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would modify Article IX, Section 8, ... (by instead providing) that nothing will prohibit the enactment of legislation pertaining to any education program, funding, or other support to benefit children attending any Missouri public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school, so long as the legislation complies with the requirements of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
There are many problems with this action, even without the religious overtones. One of the most important is that private and parochial schools are exempt from the Missouri Assessment Program tests, so there is no legitimate method of measuring performance. If the state is licensing the programs to educate our children, why are these programs exempt from the one avenue to make sure our children are educated to the standards that publicly schooled children are held?
As important, there is the lack of any concern by our legislators that by allowing government fund to religious schools, the government of Missouri is messing with religion — something even constitutional purists can see if they would only open their eyes. If the tea party, libertarians and other conservative groups want to live the Constitution as originally written, SJR 47 is a clear violation of the First Amendment.
As we decry the perception that our public schools are failing, we must ask ourselves, “Why?”
Maybe it is because the public school system is held at a higher standard.
Maybe it is because those under the Gray Dome continuously underfund K-12 education, causing buildings to crumble and teachers to purchase supplies with their own money that the public education system should supply.
Maybe it is because public education will not and should never teach creationism as a science. In a philosophy or a religion class, yes, but never as a science.
Maybe it is because the religious, conservative movement wants to indoctrinate our children in their religious beliefs and stop them from learning about critical thinking and listening — to stop them from asking those questions that religion cannot answer.
The religious overtones of this and other voucher programs are overwhelming. Our students are falling behind in mathematics and the sciences — real sciences. Foreign students coming to Missouri’s colleges are better equipped to tackle these subjects than our homegrown students.
It is my opinion that Americans have become afraid of the sciences, afraid of free thought and of questioning articles of “faith.” It is my opinion that those of religion, especially conservative Christians (not all, but a vocal minority), are afraid that science will destroy their religions and sects and that their interpretations of their scriptures will be found false.
We cannot and should not allow SJR 47 to pass the Senate vote. As of Monday, SJR 47 is scheduled as No. 19 under “Senate Bills for Perfection.” By the time you read this, the resolution will have either passed or failed the vote.
It must be the latter. If not, religious freedom in the state of Missouri will be put at risk.
If not, religion could have a free hand in indoctrinating our children to the Christian faith outside the will of their parents.
If not, we will be throwing the education system back to the Dark Ages, when religion was king and the sciences were on the executioner’s block.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.