Many of us have opposed voucher systems as thinly veiled efforts to publicly fund religious schools in addition to a system that undermines our public school system. Republican lawmakers in Tennessee seem intent on confirming the religious motivations behind the system this week in opposing vouchers because it has occurred to them that Muslim schools might be able to receive funding with Christian schools. They are threatening to block Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s school voucher bill unless they can find a way to deny it to Muslim schools — a suggestion that brings sectarian prejudices to the forefront of the debate.
State Sen. Jim Tracy (R) raised his “considerable concern” that tax dollars could go to schools that teach principles from the Quran . . . . as opposed to those schools that teach the principles from the Bible. Tracy is on the Senate Education Committee and, apparently more importantly, is a member of the Church of Christ. He wants to amend the law to exclude Muslim schools — something that is not just an act of raw prejudice but completely unconstitutional.
Kelsey triggered the debate by trying to expand the voucher program from the lowest 5 percent of schools to every school in the state. However, that would mean that at least one identified Muslim school could qualify — sending the legislators into a sectarian panic.
State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R) agreed that the fear of funding Muslim educational institutions was “just another reason for not amending the governor’s bill,” Norris pointed out.
The Tennessee legislator is in a frenzy over Islam. State Sen. Bill Ketron (R) seems to be fashioning himself as a type of Joe McCarthy of religion. He sponsored a bill to ban Sharia law in Tennessee and recently went public to demand answers from Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey on whether a floor-level sink installed outside the House chamber men’s restroom was intended to accommodate Muslims’ ritual of washing their feet before prayer.
It turned out to be a mop sink and Ketron and other legislators breathed a collective sectarian sigh of relief.
The death of the voucher bill puts the sectarian motives of some legislators in sharp relief. These legislators often deny that they have any interest in funding church institutions and simply want to improve educational opportunities for students (while refusing of course to actually fully fund public schools or commit resources to make them competitive with other states). The poor performance of public schools allows legislators to siphon off funds to religious institutions in the name of education. It is a perverse incentive. By not fixing their schools, religious legislators can get more money to Christian and Jewish schools. However, Tennessee is reminding everyone that one of the three Rs remains Religion and it has to be the right religion to receive public subsidy.
Source: Raw Story