Good exercise

It was a decision that "strikes at the very heart of the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state" warned the lead editorial in the New York Times (June 12). The editorial went on to conjure up a hoary vision of "taxpayer dollars [flowing] into sectarian institutions in contravention of the First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion." It railed against the tax-funding of "religious indoctrination," predicted a financial windfall for "religious lobbies,’’ and even foresaw the decimation of the public school system. In short, to fend off the scandalous prospect of mixing religion, education, and government funding, the Times summoned the specter of apocalypse.

The cause of this hyperbole was last month’s Wisconsin Supreme Court decision upholding the use of vouchers funded by public monies for children attending church-affiliated schools. (See www.wisbar.org/Wis2/97-0270.htm for the text of the ruling.) If upheld by the United States Supreme Court, the Wisconsin decision may well bring about a sea change in public education and in how many think about the alleged "wall of separation" between church and state.

In reality, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, as the voucher plan is called, is no threat either to government neutrality toward religion or to the health of the public schools. It merely extends to...

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