Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ken Cuccinelli Seeks to Amend Virginia Constitution To Allow Taxpayer Funding of Religious Schools

I have said for a long time that GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is a religious extremists who if given his way would destroy the separation of church and state handed down from the Founding Fathers.  Now, Cuccinelli is proposing that the Virginia Constitution be amended to allow taxpayer funding of religious schools thereby diverting funding from the Commonwealth's public schools.  This type of proposal was anathema to the Founding Fathers who wanted to established religion and no mandatory public support of of sectarian institutions.  In contrast, what Cuccinelli is proposes gives the theocrats at The Family Foundation a veritable wet dream.  Here are highlights from Think Progress:

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), his party’s nominee in this November’s gubernatorial election, unveiled a 12-point education plan Tuesday. Among his proposals: Virginia should amend its constitution to allow public funding for religious education.

Cuccinelli, who has blasted the Catholic Church for creating a “culture of dependency on government, not God,” proposed that Virginia should divert taxpayer funds from public education to parochial school vouchers. He claimed that the separation of church and state provisions in Article IV, Section 16 of Virginia’s constitution were merely anti-Catholic bigotry:
Virginia has provisions in its constitution that explicitly bar government aid to “sectarian” schools or institutions, including the so-called Blaine Amendment. The Blaine Amendment was passed as a result of anti-Catholic bigotry in American politics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, which made clear that the federal Constitution permits aid through school choice programs, Virginia’s Blaine Amendment restricts the ability to enact broad-based school choice programs. A state constitutional amendment is needed that is narrowly drafted to allow for school choice programs that do not restrict parents’ choices about what is best for each of their children.
  [P]ublic finding to any sectarian institutions . . . [is] explicitly prohibited by Virginia’s constitution.

While the nation and Virginia were founded on the belief that religions should be free from government interference in teaching their beliefs, it has also been the longstanding view that the government should not pay for religions to do so.

Cuccinelli seemingly ignores his [Thomas Jefferson's] 1779 Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. In that law, passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1786, Jefferson wrote, “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical,” and that “even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness.”

Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom is still part of the Code of Virginia even though the GOP controlled General Assembly has repeatedly ignored its principles and enacted blatantly religious based laws that marginalize gays and others who do not conform to Christofascist religious beliefs.  Here are more quotes from the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom which is one of three things Jefferson wanted to be remembered for (the other two are founding the University of Virginia and authoring the Declaration of Independence):

Almighty God hath created the mind free,and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from theplan of the Holy author of our religion, . .

the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time . . .

to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own . . . .

What Jefferson so eloquently condemned is precisely what Cuccinelli and the extremists at The Family Foundation seek to inflict on all Virginians.  Cuccinelli MUST be defeated in November.  Otherwise, the days of religious freedom for all in Virginia is numbered.  

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