A Dangerous Fine Line in Blending Public/Private Education
There are two factors — arguably in opposing ideological directions — in which this news should raise concerns:
A plan to create what could be the first U.S. public charter schools run by a Roman Catholic archdiocese is meeting resistance from those who worry about whether religious messages and icons will really stay out of the classrooms and hallways.
Mayor Greg Ballard says the plan is an innovative way to keep schools open so they can fill the needs of families in the struggling areas surrounding the schools. Archdiocese officials saw an opportunity to keep the schools open despite a growing budget deficit.
Predictably, the national movement to cut churches out of the public square has pounced on the transformation of the schools, asserting doubts that the wicked religious folks will follow through on their vows to end religious classes and remove religious symbols and literature from the premises. With regard to their activism, I can only opine that such measures should not be a national issue, but a state-by-state issue.
But with regard to their preferred policy, I find myself in general agreement. What’s the point of non-Catholic Catholic schools? The Church should be extremely wary of dabbling in waters in which secular tides prove again and again to suffocate the missions of organizations. Religious organizations should be resisting the trend to make them subcontractors to the Great Benevolent Charity and Bureaucracy that the government is becoming.
In the case of schools, they should be advocating for school choice and vouchers that allow students to use money allocated for their educations toward their preferred institutions — regardless of private, public, and religious status. That’s how “separation of church and state” ought to function: with the separation being the individual citizen who operates in both spheres.