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Web Editor's Blog

A collection of editorials written by Website Editor Jim Powers


by Jim Powers
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A lot of my spare time as a young person growing up in the 1950s and 1960s was occupied with reading science fiction books. It was an amazing time when it was possible to imagine that the future could be like the SF books suggested, filled with yet unimagined wonders resulting in unlimited social equality and technological advances.
If you have read a lot of SF books, you will know that all the wiz bang technology and travel to far off planets hid the political and social critique the authors were actually engaged in. They used situations on other planets as analogs to what was happening on our own to allow them to critique things here that might be considered off-limits.
In 1966 the SF writer Robert A. Heinlein wrote a book; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The moon had been colonized and turned into a penal colony by Earth's government. The colony ultimately revolted against the iron fisted rule by the distant Earth, assisted by a central computer that had become aware. Heinlein was advancing libertarian ideas in the book most people in the 1960s would have found unacceptable. The third chapter in the book (it had been originally serialized and broken into three books) was titled TANSTAAFL!
TANSTAAFL stands for There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, which pretty well describes the basis of the political system on the moon in the book. It passed into common use long ago, though. Meaning pretty much the same thing as Don't Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth. In other words, there is almost always a catch when someone offers you something for nothing.
The Supreme Court last week offered private religious schools something for what appears to be nothing when they ruled that taxpayer dollars could go to religious schools. Christian parents rejoiced! Now they could send their kids for religious education at the state's expense, arguing that parents should be free to send their kids to any school they wanted, especially when many Christians believe that teachers in public schools spend most of their time grooming kids to become Gay or Trans.
Beyond the obvious fact that the U.S. Constitution has an establishment clause that would seem to prohibit such activity, and the current SC's seeming lack of interest in the Constitution, declaring that they should not be interpreting it (which is in their job description), is the tendency of private religious schools to ignore the TANSTAAFL rule.
Every dollar of taxpayer money comes with a string attached. To accept that money, they are agreeing to some degree of state control. Some states might be inclined to look the other way, and not demand any oversight of how that money is used. "Here, take it, hold prayer meetings, discriminate against black kids or brown kids or Gay kids or Trans kids, or kids of another religion."
Other states will likely attach a lot of strings.
I can't understand why a private religious school would want anything from the state. The idea should, logically, be anathema to them. It should be like making a deal with the devil. After all, many Christians believe that the state IS the devil.
So, I'm baffled that the SC would create a carve out in the establishment clause to allow states to fund private religious schools. But I'm more baffled that the schools would accept such tainted dollars. They should be careful. TANSTAAFL.

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Monday, 15 August 2022