Collateral Damage: Same-Sex Marriage, Private Religious Schools, and Parental Rights

Here is Nathan Swanson writing at Public Discourse:

Same-sex marriage endangers not only religious liberty, but also the school choice movement. We need new laws to protect schools from being forced to adopt sexual orientation nondiscrimination policies in order to be eligible for voucher, tax credit/deduction, or educational savings account programs.

The “inversion of the original meaning of liberty” in Obergefell v. Hodges, observed Justice Clarence Thomas in dissent, “will likely cause collateral damage to other aspects of our constitutional order that protect liberty . . . It appears all but inevitable that [civil and religious marriage] will come into conflict.”

In Obergefell’s aftermath, it is possible that the government will ask religious institutions to choose between retaining their non-profit tax status and retaining their beliefs. But the “collateral damage” will not stop at their sanctuary doors. Many churches, synagogues, and mosques also operate schools, and they will be the next targets. Of the 30,000 private schools in the United States, the Department of Education’s Private School Universe Survey found that 68 percent have “a religious orientation or purpose” and that 80 percent of private school students attend such a school. Such religiously affiliated private schools play a key role in the school choice movement—for now.

Obergefell may force private schools to decide between holding fast to their beliefs and maintaining their eligibility for school choice programs. Schools may be forced to close to avoid government scrutiny and interference in their faith. Widespread private school closures will lead to fewer alternatives to public schools. This will hinder the school choice movement, because families may not be able to afford tuition at the remaining private secular schools, even with vouchers or other forms of assistance. A school choice movement with only charter schools and private secular schools will leave the kids and families who most need more educational options with very little choice at all.

Read more: Public Discourse

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