North Dakota Legislature threatens to blur the line between church and state
Opinion by Alan Davis
March 26, 2023 at 10:22 AM
The Wednesday, March 22 edition of The Fargo Forum reports that House Bill 1532 would allow public money to be spent on private school education. Two columnists, Tony Bender and Rob Port, one a common sense progressive and the other a mostly reasonable and sometimes interesting conservative, have weighed in. Bender opposes it, rightfully, and Port supports it, but with qualifications because it’s not sufficiently transparent. The bill contains little if any accountability.
More to the point:
As Bender points out, “The state constitution says, ‘No money raised for the support of the public schools … shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.’”
Moreover, the first clause in our U.S. Bill of Rights states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
The United States is not a Christian nation and North Dakota is not a Christian state. Rather, both nation and state, according to the Constitution, are places where a Christian is free to practice his or her faith without hindrance, just as Jews or Muslims (or, for that matter, Scientologists) are free to practice their religion if it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. We are also free to mix-and-match as we please, mixing native customs, for example, with the precepts of Christianity. The important thing, whatever our beliefs, is for each of us to have an ethical and moral center when faced with anarchy, injustice and selfishness.
There is one thing, however, that every American is bound by the Constitution to do: separate church and state.
Wiggle-waggle thinking, in which a self-righteous politician tries to pretend that there’s justification to use taxpayer money to indoctrinate kids with religious beliefs, is both comic and despicable. You have the right to drum your beliefs into your child’s head — and I might agree with your beliefs if you’re urging your child to be kind and empathetic, and to treat everybody the same way, whatever their skin color or wherever they come from — but you don’t have the right to use government money for that purpose.
Pretending otherwise in a partisan North Dakota Legislature is literally, according to the Constitution, criminal behavior. The law of the land requires the separation of church and state. You might well achieve your goal of breaking the law, given the nature of the beast in Bismarck (and elsewhere) these days, but it’s a rancid goalpost, clearly corrupt, that smells like dung.
If you want to send your kid to a religious school, by all means go ahead, but pay for it yourself. That’s your right. Don’t try to appropriate funds from public coffers to do so. That’s a crime. If a legislature approves it, it’s a collective crime.
If you disagree, how do you argue with a dictator like Putin when he claims he has the right to invade the sovereign country of Ukraine? It’s so, he says, because I say it’s so. Abolishing the separation of church and state to satisfy personal covetousness is fruit that comes from the same tree of greedy hypocrisy.