And Why It’s a Moral Issue
Reverend William Barber has called NC and the nation together in what he calls a Moral Movement. When I first heard about his call to action, I thought, “I know where I live and what has happened here in the name of religion.” I was not sure I wanted to follow another black minister over a bridge to freedom. After all, Selma brought riots, exposed hatred, and deepened the commitment to marginalizing blacks by imprisoning them, vilifying them, and keeping them poor through systemic racism. What can an evangelical minister teach this white, liberal, atheist? Why should I listen to him when I am focusing on saving public schools, the last hope of poor children of all colors?
Last Thursday, the NC Supreme Court said that parents had the right to take state tax dollars via “Opportunity Scholarships” and use the money to go to schools of their “Choice.” The majority party has called this a victory for the poor and minority children across the state who now can choose not to attend a failing school – they can choose to attend a parochial school that teaches religious doctrine, a sectarian truth based on one sect. Vouchers can be used by any private school – private, unregulated homeschools even. White parents who want to shelter their children from the regimen and stress of over-testing can apply for these funds. Parents who want to let the kids watch TV, work in the yard, and/or roam free as an alternative form of homeschool can collect a check. The state has divorced itself from the responsibility of overseeing what education means – it has allowed segregation to recommence in the name of CHOICE. Let’s call this what it is – immoral.
Whether you are a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Humanist, Pagan, it doesn’t matter – America is a secular nation, not a sectarian one. When we refuse to support public education as an equal rights initiative, we fail as a society, because our forefathers knew that our government should never mix religion with politics. It is only by keeping each unencumbered by the other that men can truly be free. They set that ideal in stone in a document called the Constitution that found the idea of state sponsored religion so repugnant, they included in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights. It is time to interrupt the narrative that these Founding Fathers meant to create a Christian Nation. Be a “true patriot” and see vouchers for what they – un-American.