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Trading One Vice for Another: Creationism & School Vouchers

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By Joseph L. Conn

Some people just don’t know when to give up. Take Springboro (Ohio) school board member Kelly Kohls. Kohls recently suggested that “intelligent design,” the current variation of creationism, be taught in her local public schools.

According to the Dayton Daily News, Kohls said, “Creationism is a significant part of the history of this country. It is an absolutely valid theory and to omit it means we are omitting part of the history of this country.”

Response to the suggestion was swift and vehement. Other board members saw the proposal as legally problematic and a distraction from pressing financial problems in the school system. Parents were upset that their children might be taught religion in science class. And civil liberties activists noted that the courts have declared “intelligent design” to be a religious concept and barred it from public school biology classes as a violation of church-state separation.

Duly chastened, Kohls, a Tea Party leader elected on a fiscal responsibility platform,has now backed off from her proposal.

“I don’t think it is something any of us are pursuing,” Kohls says. But sadly, Kohls is instead pushing school vouchers that would pay for instruction in religious schools where creationism is taught.

“I think people should have options,” she said, indicating that she would like to see expanded “school choice.”

Here’s a better idea, Ms. Kohls: use taxpayer money for public schools and other public projects and let churches and church schools operate with the voluntary donations of the faithful. That’s the mandate of the U.S. Constitution and the American way. It’s also “fiscally responsible.”

I know that not all Tea Party folks share Kohls’ views on religion and government, but an alarmingly large number of them do.

The Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal reported recently that Tea Party activists in Kentucky and other states are operating “Vacation Liberty Schools” that teach children an ultra-conservative version of American history. They draw on the academically discredited notions of David Barton, the infamous Religious Right pseudo-historian and “Christian nation” propagandist.

The United States is built on religious liberty and the separation of church and state. Americans have more freedom than any people in world history because we’ve constructed a wall of separation between religion and government.

Religious and political movements across the ideological and theological spectrum ought to celebrate church-state separation, not run it down.


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