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God's pickpockets


A gang of parochial-school promoters hit town last month, soliciting public money to advance their private religious views. That such use of public tax dollars is unconstitutional, indeed baldly un-American, was not mentioned by them. An omission so great is like advocating war without conceding that people will die. Failure to disclose vital information is not exactly lying, but it's close.

The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing group that keeps the First Amendment under siege, sponsored a panel discussion at the Statehouse Convention Center. Foundation agents argued that Arkansas should create taxpayer-funded vouchers that could be used to send children to church schools and other private schools. This would further weaken the public schools that are among this country's grandest achievements, but are always at risk from theocrats and plutocrats. Even worse, the proposal would violate the great American principle of separation of church and state, which lets the common people, not just the priests and the preachers, decide America's direction. Most of the common people would prefer that the USA not be like Iran, say, or the other countries where church and state are one. If Rod Paige prefers the Iranian model, he should say so. Instead, Paige, who was U.S. secretary of Education under G.W. Bush, claims to fear "monopoly" in education, fear it so much that he's willing to sacrifice freedom of religion. He can relax. There is no monopoly. People who want to send their kids to church schools can do so right now, they just can't make the rest of us pay for it. That they also have the choice of sending the kids to public schools run by elected friends and neighbors is not monopoly. It's democracy.

Another of the speakers was Virginia Walden Ford, who was said to have helped spearhead a school voucher program in Washington that has sent many children to private schools, mostly Catholic. The Roman Catholic hierarchy has long been the most avid lobbyist for school vouchers. Now it's picking up support from right-wing fundamentalist groups willing to align themselves with the Papists solely for the purpose of wiping out the public schools. Once that's done, the two factions can take up arms again. It's unimaginable that Rick Perry and Antonin Scalia could tolerate each other for very long.

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