Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision striking a blow for religious freedom and school choice. Then, online, all hell broke loose.
Yet the actual facts and outcome of this case would, I suspect, be unobjectionable to most Americans, including many Democrats and liberals. In a case called Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court just ruled on a Maine program that explicitly barred religious schools from an otherwise available taxpayer funding program.
“Until now, the state of Maine has subsidized the cost of private schools providing the equivalent of a secular public school curriculum for the roughly 5,000 children who live in districts (school administrative units, in Maine parlance) too sparsely populated to support their own public school,” law professor Ilya Somin explains. “However, Maine refuses to subsidize attendance at private schools with a religious curriculum in these areas, even if they have otherwise met all applicable state laws.”
In the decision, the court simply ruled that if Maine is going to offer this kind of program, it cannot discriminate against religious schools. Or, as the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey put it:
The principle is simple: If government lets people choose schools, it cannot say "choose any school EXCEPT a religious one."
That is obvious government discrimination against religion. And I'm pretty sure you are supposed to be against government discrimination. https://t.co/V9jBgsIh7G
— Neal McCluskey (@NealMcCluskey) June 21, 2022
A Jewish family may use SNAP benefits at a private grocery store to buy apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah—this doesn’t mean that SNAP benefits “subsidize religion.” Similarly, that a family may use vouchers for a religious school doesn’t mean that the vouchers subsidize religion
— Chris Freiman (@cafreiman) June 21, 2022
“The State pays tuition for certain students at private schools—so long as the schools are not religious,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority. “That is discrimination against religion.”
Critics and the dissenting justices argue that any form of taxpayer funding going to religious schools violates the “separation of church and state.” Bill-Clinton-appointed Supreme Court Justice Breyer writes that “Maine wishes to provide children within the State with a secular, public education… [and] The Religion Clauses give Maine the right to honor that neutrality by choosing not to fund religious schools as part of its public school tuition program.”
Ultimately, this decision is a common-sense victory for the First Amendment and school choice. But, in a sign of just how far gone the online far-Left is, the meltdown that ensued on social media was pretty vicious.
Here are the 4 most unhinged responses to this decision.
1. “Separation of Church and State is a Vanishing Concept”
Where #SCOTUS is heading: all parents get vouchers and they can send their kids to public or parochial schools. "Separation of church and state" is a vanishing concept at the Supreme Court.
— Jeffrey Toobin (@JeffreyToobin) June 21, 2022
This take from CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin—yes, that Jeffrey Toobin—exemplifies the empty logic behind the outrage. Remember, the words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the Constitution.
What the First Amendment does include is a—very important—clause prohibiting the government from establishing one state religion. Yet allowing education funding to flow to all schools, be they Jewish, Christian, secular, or what have you, in no way violates this clause.
As for Toobin’s nightmare scenario, “all parents get vouchers and they can send their kids to public or parochial schools,” that, erm, sounds pretty based. Parents choose the school that’s best for their kid’s needs and the best schools thrive in a marketplace while the bad schools go out of business? Oh, the horror…
2. “We Are Hurtling Towards Theocracy”
The court just ruled that taxpayers must fund religious education.
We are hurtling towards theocracy.
— Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis (@RevJacquiLewis) June 21, 2022
This woke Reverend is clearly having an absolutely normal one with this reaction.
We are not, in fact, “hurtling towards theocracy” —defined as a “government ruled by or subject to religious authority” just because religious schools of all kinds will be treated equally to other schools. This kind of boy-who-cried-wolf alarmism is worse than useless. It’s actively harmful, because normalizing this kind of rhetoric over relatively anodyne developments weakens our ability to ever raise the alarm in the future when people do try to push religion onto others through the government.
3. “Love to Pay for Kids to be Taught to Hate Me!”
Someone's out there trying to indoctrinate kids, and it ain't drag queens. https://t.co/zalRJcuCUQ
— Daniel Summers, MD 🏳️🌈 (@WFKARS) June 21, 2022
As a gay Mainer, just tickled the sickest shade of pink that my tax dollars will go to schools that openly discriminate against gay Mainers. Love to pay for kids to be taught to hate me!
— Daniel Summers, MD 🏳️🌈 (@WFKARS) June 21, 2022
These unhinged takes from Twitter doctor and progressive commentator Daniel Summers really are quite funny. On one front, they’re factually misleading.
As Somin notes, even under Carson v. Makin the state of Maine could still have neutral restrictions on the funding and only send it to schools that do not discriminate, if it chooses to do so. That would be a neutral requirement, even if it did rule out some religious schools. They just can’t blanket prohibit religious schools!
But it’s funny to see folks like Summers up in arms over the idea that their tax dollars might be used to fund schools that demonize people like them and reject their worldview. You know… exactly how conservatives often feel about public schools?!?
Tax dollars for education are meant to help the student, not pad the coffers of any particular school. What’s best for a student and their family might not be what you personally would choose for yours. Get over it.
4. “Expand the Court!”
BREAKING: Justice Sonia Sotomayor accuses the six right-wing justices of trying to "dismantle the wall of separation between church and state" after they strike down a Maine law barring religious schools from receiving tax-payer aid. RT IF YOU THINK THAT WE MUST EXPAND THE COURT!
— Occupy Democrats (@OccupyDemocrats) June 21, 2022
This take from far-left social media page Occupy Democrats is truly mind-boggling in its short-sightedness and stupidity.
By “expand the court,” they mean pack the Supreme Court: Cram it with additional justices that agree with liberal views to superimpose their vision of the law onto it. While technically not against the Constitution, expanding the court in this manner would be a disastrous attack on one of our essential institutions. It’s the stuff of banana republics and dictators and would quickly lead to the Supreme Court losing all credibility.
All over a relatively minor First Amendment education funding ruling you don’t like. If you find yourself thinking like this, step outside and touch grass.
Online left-wing reactionaries need to take several deep breaths and step away from Twitter.
I think this decision is a good thing and fundamentally correct on its legal reasoning and merits. But if you don’t, there are measured and thoughtful arguments one could make against it. We can and should debate those in the coming weeks. Yet no matter how you slice it, this ruling isn’t some harbinger of the Handmaid’s Tale in America or the destruction of the First Amendment, yadda yadda.
Ultimately, Carson v. Makin is just a change to funding programs for school choice initiatives. We’ll all be just fine. In fact, many students, families, and schools will be better off.