Eric Black: ‘Education freedom’ contradicts religious freedom
Eric Black is editor of the Baptist Standard. In this article he considers several reasons to oppose the push for vouchers in Texas, but importantly, he points out why Baptists should also oppose the use of public funds to pay private school tuition.
A seemingly more subtle problem with “education freedom”—one that should cause all Baptists to resist it—is the religious implications of taxpayer funds going to private institutions.
Many Baptists voiced their opposition to their tax dollars being used to pay for abortions, citing religious freedom concerns among others. Baptists should be equally concerned about taxpayer-funded private education—most of which is religious.
Baptists should ask: Do they want to fund Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or other religious schools? Likewise, should Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and others pay for Christian schools they don’t attend? Baptists historically have said “no.” We should still.
I agree we need quality education for all children. Private options may be what some need to achieve that end. My parents thought so. They placed my sister and me in a private Christian school for primary and secondary education.
But calling it “education freedom” is disingenuous. Besides the ethical, financial, social and political issues it raises, it conflicts with religious freedom. For Baptists, this is reason enough to resist efforts to fund private education with public funds.
But there’s another reason we should resist. Many Christians have given their lives to educate children in public schools. Many of our fellow Christians are in classrooms and administrative offices doing their best to care for each and every child in ways that honor Christ and the law. They need our support. What would we say to them by sending that support elsewhere?