Speaking over the weekend at the Values Voter Summit, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said if elected president he would repeal the Johnson Amendment and would enact a school choice program which would make billions of taxpayer dollars available for religious schools.
The Secular Coalition of America quickly responded to Trump’s statements.
“Donald Trump’s pledge to repeal the Johnson Amendment stands as one of the greatest threats to the separation of church and state,” said Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “Since 1954 the Johnson Amendment has served as a safeguard of American democracy by ensuring that all nonprofits, including religious nonprofits, use their tax-exempt status to improve society, not to play partisan politics. Unlike secular nonprofits, churches receive the additional privilege of being exempt from any financial transparency requirements. If a President Donald Trump makes good on his pledge to repeal the Johnson Amendment, he would be unleashing billions of dollars of religious ‘dark money’ into the political system.”
“Under the guise of promoting ‘school choice’ Donald Trump’s education plan is little more than a thinly-veiled taxpayer bailout for private religious schools,” said Sarah Levin, Senior Legislative Representative at the Secular Coalition. “Trump frames his education plan as offering parents a ‘choice,’ but what choice does it offer taxpayers who will see their tax dollars funneled from inclusive public schools to private sectarian, religious schools? The religious schools that would receive billions under Trump’s plan are not held to the same standards regarding evidence-based curriculum and nondiscrimination protections for students. Parents who would like their children to attend a religious school are free to make that choice, but not on the American taxpayers’ dime.”
Trump’s statement is not unlike that of Gary Johnson’s, the Libertarian Party nominee, who supports a school voucher program that allows taxpayers to direct their money to faith-based schools. Johnson supported a similar program as Governor of New Mexico, where his program allowed taxpayer funds to be used to support faith-based childcare facilities.
The plan is also in line with much of the Republican Party strategy which is always looking for ways to use public funds to support religious education, either in public schools or through private schools which they try to make more accessible to parents.
At the end of the day, this is just the theocratic right working overtime to make America the Iran of the west.