Hawaii government nearly gave $1.5 million to a Catholic school.

Good job to State Senator Donna Mercado Kim, who scoured the state of Hawaii’s highly complex budget and found an attempt at a Constitutional violation:

Legislators in Hawaii recently approved a state budget. As you can imagine, a $6 billion budget for a state of 1.4 million people can be a pretty complex thing. Some lawmakers probably signed off on it without reading every word.

But at least one legislator, Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, was prodded to take the time to look a little deeper – and it paid off. Kim was directed to something interesting buried deep inside the budget: a $1.5 million grant of tax money to a private Roman Catholic high school in Honolulu.

Rob Boston (whom I heard speak in Philly this last weekend and he was incredible, seriously, consider inviting him to speak to your group) are on the case.  The money was set aside as part of a grant program that provides aid to not-for-profit organizations working in the public interest.

he school’s website makes it clear that this is an institution that furthers a private sectarian interest. It states, “As a community of faith, missioned by the Roman Catholic Church, we espouse the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as exemplified in the Essential Elements of an Edmund Rice Christian Brother Education, and through the selfless service of Saint Damien of Moloka’i.”

What are those “essential elements”? Here are just four of them:

* “Proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed.”

* “Permeate the entire curriculum, activities and all aspects of the educational process with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.”

* “Encourage young people to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.”

* “Provide opportunities for liturgies, retreats, vocation awareness workshops and daily prayer.”

It’s perfectly fine to have highly sectarian goals like that; it’s not fine to force all taxpayers to subsidize them.

Oh, that last line is pure gold.  As it turns out, this allocation of funds also explicitly violates Hawaii’s state constitution as well:

In fact, the Hawaii Constitution is quite clear on this matter. Article X, Section 1, limits education funding to public schools and says that no tax money shall “be appropriated for the support or benefit of any sectarian or private educational institution.”

Now, even though the budget was almost unanimously approved, everybody is turning a 360, which is a good thing.  What I want to know is how that appropriation got sneaked into the budget in the first place.  Someone had to do it.

All the same, glad it got stopped.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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