Monday, August 05, 2002

No One Should Be Compelled to Support Political Speech with Which They Disagree! Everyone Should Be Compelled to Support Religious Speech with Which They Disagree!

How do you oppose public financing of political campaigns on constitutional and moral grounds, but support public financing of religious education at the same time?

I rated a same day response from the editor. "What is inconsistent is the position of modern-day liberals like Coppersmith . . . . perversely arguing that a poor black parent in inner-city Cleveland must not be allowed the option of escaping an entrenched institution -- local public schools -- by using some of her tax money to send her child to a private or religious school she believes is better." [Emphasis added]

But that's the entire game, right there. The Ohio voucher program isn't based on a deduction, voluntary check-off, or tax credit. It didn't just use that one parent's tax money, but instead funds the program from general tax revenues. Those revenues are, to paraphrase the Tribune with religion substituted for politics, "forcibly taken from citizens to support [religions] and [faiths] with which they may disagree." So the Tribune's position really is "subsidized religion good, subsidized political speech bad."

East Valley Tribune, August 4, 2002

Opponents of Clean Elections--including this newspaper--argue that it’s outrageous, unfair, and unconstitutional to use their taxes to support political speech with which they disagree. They say their money shouldn’t be used for politics they don’t believe or profess.

It’s a superficially appealing argument; you can quote Jefferson, and even (for really extreme cases) claim that you’re civil rights activist, a modern-day Rosa Parks transformed for the 21st century into a white guy.

There’s just one problem. Virtually everybody who opposes public financing of political campaigns (at least on the congressional and state levels; it’s perfectly OK for Republicans to accept public funding when running for president) also supports school vouchers.

School vouchers also take tax dollars, without your consent, to support other people’s religions. Vouchers use your money to subsidize religious speech, regardless of your most fundamental beliefs.

If it’s outrageous to use a Republican’s taxes, even indirectly, to support political campaigns which might include (gasp!) Democrats, why should a Protestant’s taxes to be used, without consent, to support Catholic dogma and instruction, or to subsidize a Jewish parochial school?

The same First Amendment protects both the free exercise of religion and free speech. You’re always told never to argue either politics or religion with strangers. So why is public support of political speech an abomination, but pubic support of religious speech a result devoutly to be wished?

Taxpayers generally have no constitutional right to stop how government spends their money. However, by belonging--as I do--to the speeding ticket club, the gasoline buyers association, the loyal order of notary publics, and the fellowship of itemizing income tax filers, “membership” suddenly has its privileges. Magically, you get powers not available to ordinary citizens, The Tribune’s solicitous concern for your beliefs, and the ability to block your money from going to partisan politics but not to a sectarian religion. Does this make any sense?

Just wait until less “mainstream” religions figure out that, like America’s farmers and ranchers, you can prattle on about rugged individualism while pocketing massive government subsidies. Your tax money just might support religious instruction at a Muslim mosque, a Native American peyote ceremony, or a pagan preschool. With vouchers, it’s everybody into the pool!

Just keep chanting: Tax subsidies for religious diversity are good, public money to encourage political diversity is evil.

The U.S. Supreme Court, by the same 5-4 vote that decides all the really big issues in America, just upheld school vouchers. Public funds can be used, constitutionally and with no taxpayer consent, even though 97 percent of the Ohio program’s government funding supported religious education. My taxes and license fees and payments can go into the state treasury and come out inside some parochial school, to be used to teach kids a religion in which I don’t believe.

But there’s no constitutional problem funding religion this way. How could funding all comers in political races, just as a voucher program funds all religions, in the same indirect way, suddenly be unconstitutional?

Clint Bolick and the Institute for Justice--litigating against funding political speech while litigating in favor of funding religious speech--may not see the contradiction, but the use of tax money in both areas sure looks the same from here.

By making these extreme (and already judicially rejected) arguments about political speech, then turning around and demanding the identical use of tax money to subsidize religious speech, these opponents of Clean Elections who support school vouchers are doing some serious proselytizing--for the gods of hypocrisy.

Oh, and those Jefferson quotes? He was decrying any government support of religion, not political speech. But you’d need an education to know that.

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