Vouchers take away freedom

By Ben Walsh

In his article “Arguing for School Vouchers,” John Lovejoy grossly misrepresents the opinions of those who oppose school vouchers. He also made factually incorrect statements. Lovejoy’s assertion that “it should be obvious that [the First Amendment] applies only to Congress” is misleading and incorrect. The establishment clause of the First Amendment, along with almost every other right in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, has been expanded through the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. This means that the 1st Amendment applies to all the “states, cities, and towns,” within the United States that Lovejoy seems to think have carte blanche to violate the constitution. Once a right has been incorporated, as the establishment clause was in 1963, it cannot be legally violated by any state or local government. Recent Supreme Court cases have shown vouchers to be constitutional; however, the idea that state administered programs have the ability to violate the First Amendment is absolutely false.

Lack of legal research aside, Lovejoy makes a more convincing case for the presence of anti-Catholicism than he does for vouchers. Anti-Catholicism has a real and ugly past in American history, yet despite his best efforts, Lovejoy cannot link such bigotry to the current debate. He attacks anti-Catholic forces as though they were dominating the debate with hateful rhetoric. Were this the case, his criticism would be valid. However, since this is not the case, it does nothing to further his argument.

Lovejoy cannot substantiate his assertion that those who oppose vouchers want to trap poor children in failing schools. What he does not recognize is that there are those who think the best solution is not, as vouchers would allow, to walk away from public education, but to strengthen it. And what if parents don’t want to send their children to parochial school? Is there another choice for them? Would the “most focused, hard-working” students necessarily want to attend a sectarian school? Lovejoy seems to think that allowing children to attend Catholic schools will solve all educational problems, even though there is no evidence that they produce higher test scores or gains that could not otherwise be reaped through reorganization and proper funding of public schools.

Lovejoy also overlooks the fact that the religious freedom and independence, which allows Catholic schools to operate without government interference, is threatened by vouchers. What happens when, as is sure to be the case, certain schools become dependent on government funding through vouchers? The government would then have a large degree of control over previously independent institutions. And with control over the purse, the moral teachings which Lovejoy so rightly cherishes could be modified or manipulated through the government interference he so willingly invites.