***Update***: There’s better video and more excerpts at Justin’s blog.
There’s one main reason church/state separation advocates don’t support school vouchers: It would allow parents to send their kids to religious schools on the taxpayer dime. (Want a second reason? The private schools also wouldn’t be held to the same accountability standards as the public schools.)
Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Justin Vacula and several other atheists attended a rally in the state capitol building in support of school choice so they could voice their dissent. (***Edit***: The protest was “sponsored” by American Atheists.) Justin held up a sign reading, “Separate Church and State” and Ernest Perce V videotaped part of the rally.
Check out what State Senator Anthony Williams had to say:
… You send your kids to whatever school you want to send your kids to. By the way, you have a right to do that, be it an atheist school or not. Guess what? I got a right to send my kids to the school I want to send them to!
He’s wrong, of course. Separation of church and state means that tax money cannot be used to fund one particular faith (or an “atheist school,” whatever that is) over another.
Later on, Williams tells the dissenters: “By the way, this is MY rally, not yours. Have one for you and bring all your children and you can rally, too.” He says that at a rally taking place in the Capitol Building…It’s amazing how dumb people can get when they think someone’s attacking their faith. All reason flies out the window.
Not that they really care, but the Senate bill in support of vouchers violates the Pennsylvania Constitution:
The Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits the parts of Senate Bill 1 that would result in state funding being used for tuition at private religious schools. During the original debate over adopting these constitutional provisions, legislators specifically favored a strict prohibition against any use of public funds at religious institutions. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld this strict prohibition, outlawing state payments to religiously-affiliated hospitals. The Court has allowed state funding for bus transportation to sectarian schools by finding that the public funds did not actually “reach the coffers” of those schools. But vouchers in SB 1 are specifically designed to “reach the coffers” of religious and other private schools. This violates the Pennsylvania Constitution, regardless of whether the state funding first goes through the hands of individual families before “reaching the coffers” of the religious schools.
Justin has plenty more about his experience at the rally here and it’s definitely worth a read.