Church-State Update, Vol. 28, No. 2

Edd Doerr, Tom Flynn

Guiliani to Push School Vouchers

Presidential aspirant Rudy Giliani has named an Educational Advisory Board whose membership is stacked in favor of diverting public funds to faith-based private schools under voucher plans. The panel is to be headed by voucher promoter Terry Moe and former Bush education secretary Rod Paige, and includes voucher advocates Clint Bolick and Sol Stern. Giuliani seems not to have noticed that over the last forty years, millions of voters in twenty-six statewide referenda (including in his own state of New York) have rejected vouchers or their variants by an average margin of two to one. See “More on Vouchers,” below.—Eds

Another Brick Out of the Wall: After receiving a letter of complaint signed by 160 lawmakers, Stephen Ayers, acting architect of the U.S. Capitol, rescinded a policy that had forbidden unconstitutional religious expressions on certificates verifying a flag flown over the Capitol in honor of a selected individual.

The cross removed from Los Angeles County’s seal in 2004 will stay off; the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a suit challenging the removal as “hostility toward religion.”—TF

More on School Vouchers

On November 6, half a million Utah voters went to the polls and crushed an ambitious school voucher plan by 62.2 percent to 37.8 percent. Unfortunately, the media paid scant attention to what was the twenty-sixth (yes, twenty-sixth!) statewide referendum defeat for school vouchers or their variants in forty years. Millions of voters from coast to coast have said No! by an average margin of two to one to any diversion of public funds to faith-based or other nonpublic schools. The latest national Gallup poll, in mid-2007, registered almost exactly the same level of opposition. If vouchers can’t pass muster in the reddest of the red states, they can’t pass anywhere.

Why, then, do we have voucher plans in operation in Wisconsin and Ohio? Not only because the Wisconsin supreme court failed in its duty to uphold the state constitution, and because the U. S. Supreme Court mistakenly allowed Ohio to circumvent the First Amendment, but also because those two states’ lawmakers did not allow voters a chance to correct the legislature’s mistakes.

Theocons and neocons continue scheming to force all taxpayers to support faith-based and other private schools, which commonly practice forms of discrimination and indoctrination that would be intolerable in public schools. Powerful lobbies, pressure groups, and influential columnists like George Will pour enormous effort into promoting vouchers and with them the destruction of democratic public education. A single foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, in 2006 alone poured over $28 million into the coffers of twenty-three pro-voucher organizations! The Walton outfit, of course, rides on the profits of the Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club chain, the largest retailer in the world. (Personally, that’s one of the reasons why I’ll never spend a dime in a Wal-Mart.)—ED

Akron, Ohio, discontinued recitation of the Lord’s Prayer before city council meetings after a church-state watchdog group threatened legal action.

A federal judge suspended Washington state rules compelling pharmacies to provide “morning after” contraceptive pills, ruling that it violates the religious freedom of pharmacists who may object to the pills as abortifacients.—TF

R.I.P. Henry Hyde

Former Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) went to his eternal reward on November 29, 2007. Hyde will be mainly remembered as the guy who used his powerful post in the House to deny safe, legal abortions to as many women as possible. Less well known is his role in holding up Rep. Ernest Istook’s (R-Okla.) school prayer amendment. Hyde kept this proposed constitutional amendment bottled up during much of the 1990s, until Istook allowed its modification to add weasely language to permit school vouchers. Fortunately, the Istook/Hyde amendment was defeated.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of debating Hyde on a televised American Enterprise Institute program. I was literally a last-minute substitute for Illinois Senator Alan J. Dixon. Needless to say, I won. Although it is not nice to speak ill of the departed, Hyde reminded me of what Senator Wayne Morse (D-Ore.) once said about Senator Homer Capehart (R-Ind.) on the Senate floor. He called him “a tub of rancid ignorance.”—ED

The Illinois legislature passed a moment of silence law—overriding a veto by Governor Rod Blagojevich—in October 2007.

Rob Sherman, a Buffalo Grove, Illinois, church-state activist, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the moment of silence law—also in October 2007.—TF

Edd Doerr

Edd Doerr is a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He headed Americans for Religious Liberty for thirty-six years and is a past president of the American Humanist Association.

Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn is editor of Free Inquiry, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, and editor of The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (2007).


Guiliani to Push School Vouchers Presidential aspirant Rudy Giliani has named an Educational Advisory Board whose membership is stacked in favor of diverting public funds to faith-based private schools under voucher plans. The panel is to be headed by voucher promoter Terry Moe and former Bush education secretary Rod Paige, and includes voucher advocates Clint …

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