Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 6, 1968

Tax Money For Church Schools


Bigotry is not necessarily involved in a person's aversion to being solicited or taxed for the support of a political party or political concepts he cannot conscientiously endorse. Neither is bigotry necessarily involved in the natural resentment which arises at the prospect of being taxed for the support of religious causes or movements which we prefer not to embrace.

The first part of the 1st Amendment to our national constitution does two things: "First, it prevents Congress from compelling anyone to accept any creed, or practice any form of religion; and second, it safeguards the right of anyone to worship in his own chosen form of religion."

As to the historical, religious and sociological climate which encouraged or led to the creation of the 1st Amendment, it is observed, "At the time when the Bill of Rights was drawn up, Americans were familiar with established (tax supported) churches, like the Church of England, and with government interference with religious worship. Some of the early settlements were established as a result of religious persecution." It should be noted also that there was considerable tension in the early American colonies between established churches, which were connected with governmental processes via tax support and official establishment, and the independent or separatist groups.

The favoritism afforded school-operating churches via the child-benefit road of tax-support, amounts to a de facto discrimination against churches which do not operate schools. This is seen in that the schools operating churches, upon receiving fringe benefits or monies for transportation and text-books, are enabled to free their church's funds to be used in more direct sectarian or denominational interests. Thus school operating churches, while supporting part of their functional responsibilities, enjoy government support of other responsibilities of the church.

Even though the religio-politico climate is more irenic in these latter 20th century ecumenical times, legislation which creates financial ties between government, and those church groups which maintain schools, cannot be in the best and long range interests of all the people. It seems that such legislation reverses the trend of separation of church and state and heads in the direction of special governmental recognition of certain groups over against others.

While legislation involving church institutions is being advanced and defended on the assumption that what it sought is "not an aid to religion but, rather, a safety measure intended to benefit children," it should be noted that these "benefits sought for children" are sought by religionists who seek to have their own child-benefit funds released to be channeled into religious orientation programs more obviously connected to sectarian interests. It cannot be constitutional nor ethical for the legislature to become a party to the efforts of a religious institution to improve its financial standing at the expense of the public treasury.

The true strength of any religion in America is seen in its imitative and operation separate and apart from public funds and state ties. All churches stand on equal footing when such is the case. But when the school-operating churches demand special benefits for their school causes, whether those state benefits be in the form of direct financial grants, or in the form of state support of the church-school's fringe responsibilities such as transportation and text-books, the concept of separation of church and state is eroded. In reception of tax support for any function, the school operating churches enjoy a connection with the public treasury not experienced by, nor available to, churches which do not operate schools.

If it be argued that all churches are free to operate accredited schools and thus receive tax benefits, let it be answered that some churches do not believe in starting something beyond their means to support, nor to call for government help for any church project. Starting projects dependent on governmental grants is not good business practice in the field of free enterprise or in the field of religion. But I suspect that if legislation allows it, more and more churches will be getting into the school business and turning to the public treasury for help. Thus if the legislative ball continues to roll toward public money for church causes, it is certain to pick up more and more demands for more and more benefits, until finally it is weighted down with the burdens of a de facto union of church and state. And what about the public treasury? The churches constitute big interests in this country, and when they get the word they can reach into the public treasury for various functions, they will be making the best of the situation.

A clarion call back to the strictures of the 1st Amendment must be sounded throughout our country. America was pulled into a most difficult and frustrating situation in the escalating steps of the war in Viet Nam, and it is headed toward a most un-American, unconstitutional and difficult situation in the gradual loading of church burdens on the public treasury.

These child-benefit acts of legislation which grant or channel public funds to church programs are important steps in the escalation of the eroding of the 1st Amendment.

— W. E. W.