When pro vouchers lawmakers in the Georgia Legislature talk about using public money to send children to private religious schools, they are usually envisioning Christian institutions.
But what if parents took taxpayer dollars and enrolled their children in a school that advocated anti-American or anti-Christian beliefs?
What if a cult leader decided to create a school – a David Koresh type – and have his followers use public money in the form of vouchers to fund it. That would be legal under the voucher philosophy that parents can use their taxpayer-funded vouchers to send their children to the school of their choice.
Here is a story out of England that raises a very interesting scenario — public money for a school that would disdain organized religion. Would lawmakers here defend such schools? Would the public embrace vouchers if the money went to schools that taught ideas outside mainstream Georgia?
I doubt it. I think the outcry at the Capitol would be loud enough to be heard in Valdosta and Dalton.
This piece in the Telegraph touches on these questions:
Richard Dawkins has said he is interested in setting up an atheist “free school” under the Government’s plan to encourage independent education establishments.
The author of “The God Delusion,” who has previously described religious education provided by faith schools as a form of child abuse, said he would want pupils to be taught to be skeptical and to appreciate the value of evidence rather than receive “indoctrination” about atheism.
He also said that his “free-thinking school” would provide lessons about the gods of ancient Greece and Norse legend, and would treat the Bible as a work of literature rather than a basis for morality.
The former Oxford University professor and evolutionary biologist, now a bestselling author who has called for the Pope to be arrested for “crimes against humanity” during his visit to Britain, made his comments during a webchat with users of Mumsnet.
Prof Dawkins was asked to set up a “secular school” or an “atheist free school” as an antidote to faith schools by women who believe they are divisive and anti-scientific.
Under plans disclosed by the Coalition last week, parents, charities and voluntary groups will be able to set up “free schools” funded by public money but independent from state control.
He replied: “Thank you for suggesting that I should start an atheist free school. I like the idea very much, although I would prefer to call it a free-thinking free school.
“I would never want to indoctrinate children in atheism, any more than in religion. Instead, children should be taught to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded.
“If children understand that beliefs should be substantiated with evidence, as opposed to tradition, authority, revelation or faith, they will automatically work out for themselves that they are atheists.
“I would also teach comparative religion, and teach it properly without any bias towards particular religions, and including historically important but dead religions, such as those of ancient Greece and the Norse gods, if only because these, like the Abrahamic scriptures, are important for understanding English literature and European history.”
In reply to another questioner, Prof Dawkins said: “The Bible should be taught, but emphatically not as reality. It is fiction, myth, poetry, anything but reality. As such it needs to be taught because it underlies so much of our literature and our culture.”
Under current rules, all schools are supposed to provide “collective worship” each day, usually in assemblies, although parents can withdraw children. Schools also have to teach religious education under the National Curriculum, but “free schools” would likely be exempt from this.