The following is an opinion piece by VTLP member Travis Spencer:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Apparently Vermont’s elected officials and especially Johannah Leddy Donovan, D-Burlington, need to read the US Constitution and especially the First Amendment. Nowhere in the constitution does it mention a separation of church and state; it is all a myth that politicians have hijacked for their agenda. The First Amendment gives a freedom of religion that was put in place to protect citizens from a state sponsored religion, i.e. the Church of England, not to protect the civil state from all religions.
Unfortunately, Leddy Donovan doesn’t understand this concept. She believes that by allowing private school students access to the dual enrollment program the state would be funding religious schools, and in her mind this is unconstitutional. This is a big stretch. Since the program is designed to help individual students take college courses while in high school, the money is supporting the child not the high school. Under Johannah Leddy Donovan’s rationale, any child that attends church wouldn’t be eligible. My children attend parochial school, and many families like mine make a huge sacrifice to afford this education. These families pay property taxes in their respective towns, and these taxes are used to support the local public school system. Those of us that choose to send our kids to private institutions receive no rebate or credit for what we pay into the system that our children never use. On top of that our students are required to participate in community service projects. We raise money and items for many local non-profit organization that give back to the local community while the legislature turns its back on these students.
Again there is no legal “wall of separation.” The First Amendment is a check on civil government. Freedom of speech was not written to protect the state from the press but rather to protect a free press from a controlling government. The same holds true for freedom of religion; it protects religions from corrupting interference from the government but does not protect the state from religious organizations.
Recently we have had several school budget debates and towns have voted down increases and we hear about all the possible cuts that will take place. Every time folks come out in support of a budget increase we hear things like, “you can’t put a price on education” or “I don’t mind my tax dollars going to help kids.” Well, according to the Vermont Legislature private school kids don’t matter and need not apply.