School choice is about providing children with the best education available, not supporting one religion over another. The current government school system compels religious citizens to support schools that often do not reflect their values and beliefs. School choice will allow parents to exercise their right and responsibility to direct the educational development of their children according to their own values, whether religious or secular.
- The phrase "separation of church and state" does not exist in any founding document of the United States, but was part of a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association in Danbury, Connecticut. The Baptists had expressed concerns that the U. S. government might attempt to establish a state church. Jefferson wrote to assuage their fear, stating that the First Amendment had built "a wall of separation between church and state" which prevented the government from doing so. Later Supreme Court cases expounded on Jefferson's letter without citing the context of his statement. It was not until the 1947 U. S. Supreme Court decision in Everson v. Board of Education that the phrase "separation of church and state" developed its present day interpretation, the effects of which have been the virtual removal of religion from public life.130
The "separation of church and state" has changing interpretations.
- The U. S. Supreme Court has consistently defended the right and responsibility of parents to direct the education of their children in such decisions as Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925). In this decision striking down Oregon's attempt to ban private schools, the Court ruled that
Supreme Court decisions haved consistently supported parents' right to direct the education of their children.
the fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.131
Other Supreme Court decisions affirming parental rights include Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972),132 Wolman v. Walter (1977),133 and Mueller v. Allen (1983).134
Most recently, in June 1998, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in Jackson v. Benson that parental school choice via taxpayer-funded vouchers was constitutional.135 The U.S. Supreme Court later let stand the Wisconsin court's decision by voting 8-1 not to review the case. The contested voucher program now provides up to 15,000 poor Milwaukee students with a $4,000 state voucher to attend private religious schools. This ruling is most notable because of Wisconsin's strict laws on church-state separation.
- Food stamps and Medicaid are examples of voucher programs where recipients can use government money at the grocery stores or hospitals of their choice. Likewise, "public" money already flows to private and religious colleges and universities through various government loans and grants. And veterans of World War II used the G. I. Bill to attend colleges of their choice—including religious institutions—and the federal government paid the tuition.
Other well established government-funded voucher programs are constitutional.