Religious Plunder

The religious right and their conservative allies increasingly attempt to impose a religious state on the nation. The creeping incursions by evangelicals and other religious extremists continue over a wide front, attacking the peoples liberties. They do this in the name of religious freedom as set forth in the Constitution, but it is really a brazen attempt to impose their religious sensibilities and beliefs on what is supposedly a secular nation.

The Founders of this nation were quite unequivocal in their desire to forge a Wall of Separation between the spiritual and the secular. This is the reason that the First Amendment proclaims the right to the free exercise of religion. The original settlers from Europe were often the victims of vicious attack by those that believed that their own version of scripture was the legitimate one, and that all other sects were apostates or heretics. The religious wars in Europe devastated the continent and caused the deaths of many hundreds of thousands, often in the most brutal fashion, and the virtual enslavement of millions. Jewish believers were favorite targets, and the wars between Catholic and Protestant raged back and forth across the continent.

When the first settlers arrived at Plymouth Harbor in 1620, they were religious refugees, fleeing the persecution of members of their faith, and hoping to find freedom in the Americas. One of the first things they did once here was to try and convert the native population, who, for the most part, were just not interested. So, the settlers massacred them instead. Those that converted were spared, the rest put to the sword, and an attempt made to impose a religious state.

Conservatives are again attempting to impose their religious beliefs on society. They are couching their attempt in terms of religious freedom. Their aim is really to impose their religious beliefs on taxpayers using religious freedom as an excuse. They want taxpayer funds to be used to help fund religious institutions. they want us to believe that their religious ideological freedoms are being impinged upon because the state wont finance their institutions.

If people want religious institutions like churches, they should pay for them using their own funds, not force them from taxpayers at the barrel of a gun. As it is, churches do not pay property taxes, income taxes or state taxes, and yet they use public services for which other taxpayers are paying. Indirectly these organizations are already receiving taxpayer funds.

Conservatives want taxpayers to give funds directly to religious schools. They have been attempting to introduce laws, using statutes or constitutional amendments, that will allow the state to provide funding for any religious institution. In the case of Florida, the constitution expressly forbids any funds from going to religious institutions directly or indirectly – the so-called “no-aid” provision. This amendment has been on the books for 126 years, for good reason.

There is no reason whatsoever that taxpayers should be forced to provide funding for any religious organization. There are a great many taxpayers that have religious, moral or secular reasons for not providing funding to religious schools or churches. Why should any individual be forced to give money that is supposed to be used to provide services for a general public good, to any organization that is used by an exclusive group of people? Taxpayer funds should be used for public works, available to the general public, not to groups with a particular agenda or ideology.

It would be quite easy for wholesale fraud to manifest itself through handouts by taxpayers. Any organization calling itself religious could be setup for the express purpose of obtaining funding from taxpayers. Those taxpayers that have an alternative religious ideology, or no ideology at all would be severely disadvantaged and forced by the instrument of the state to provide their hard earned cash for this singular purpose.

Proponents of the measure argue that some organizations run programs like prison ministries or after school programs that provide a needed public service. If those programs are doing so much good, there is no need to use them to proselytize to people in vulnerable positions. It is really another way to impose a religious ideology on people who have no other choice. Prisoners are in a tough position and should not have to choose between their safety in prison and religious propaganda. It is similar with children in after-school programs.

Children should be given a religiously neutral environment in which to feel safe. It should be up to parents to determine what their religious affiliation should, or should not be, not up to these religious institutions. The state could equally well set up its own after school programs instead of paying religious institutions to do so.

Religious schools promote an anti-science agenda that promote creationist ideology rather than basing their curriculum on scientific theories, laws, facts and principles. There is no reason that taxpayers ought to be funding this sort of propaganda. There is no substantive distinction between religious schools and the madrasas that are found in countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen. these schools use the schools to promote an intolerant anti-secular ideology that ultimately threatens the secular state.

Proponents also claim that under current law, Catholic organizations can provide services as long as they do not use the opportunity to promote their religion. If that is the case, we do not need a constitutional amendment that  allows them to provide services, since they are already doing so. They should not be using public funds to force their religious ideology on others. That would discourage people from availing themselves of the services offered, which is unfair to people that were taxpayers, or may be again.

Schools should be used to produce students that can provide a valuable service to their communities and to the state. Students from religious schools are unable to move into professions that require scientific training. They need to have an adequate education in the sciences before they attend institutions of higher education. The propagation of religious training does little of value for the state in terms of providing for advanced technological skills. There are a great number of professions that are hindered by education in a narrow religious ideology rather than a broad, liberal education.

States like Florida should leave their Constitution as it is and not force taxpayers, who have no real choice, to fund these organizations. They should fund real schools that are in dire need of funding to continue operating. That allows children to receive an education that they need, and not what religious organizations decide that they need. The state of Florida continues to eliminate funding for schools, fire teachers and make the lives of students intolerable, and yet they want to give funds to religious schools.

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