Religion, Education and The State

Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Mississippi is under fire for allegedly forcing its students to attend and listen to Christian lectures during three assemblies held in April alone. Worse yet, students were barred from leaving and teachers blocked the exits to prevent any of them from doing so. A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of students by the American Humanist Association, in defense of what many are calling religious liberty. [Source: Addictinginfo.org 3/23/13]

Actually, it’s not “religious liberty” under attack in Mississippi. Religious conservatives base their support of state-funded religion on what they call “freedom of religion.” They mean what they say, as the Mississippi example demonstrates: Freedom for religion to do what it wants, even with taxpayer funds.
Religious conservatives have adopted the premise of the secular left. They count on the force of government to advance their views. Therein lies the problem. It’s not religious liberty under attack. You cannot fight such policies based on defense of “religious liberty” or “religious freedom.”

The conservative will say, “I have a right, as an American, to have my children taught in a Christian school with Christian values.” The conservative, at least in Mississippi, takes it for granted that public schools will provide this for him.

The leftist will reply, “No you don’t.” But the leftist is counting on the exact same thing: Support from a federally and locally tax-funded public school, only to teach things that conform to his point-of-view rather than the conservative’s. A leftist will say, “I am entitled to a public school to teach my children that homosexuality and abortion are OK, that global warming is for real and the government must restrain technology.” A conservative will say, “I am entitled to a public school to teach that sex outside of marriage is wrong, abortion is murder and prayer is the only way to cope.” The point is: Neither is entitled to any such thing, not through the coercion of government.

The only antidote to what we’re seeing in Mississippi is individual freedom, based on private property, free enterprise and voluntary action. Individual freedom refers to the right to be left free from force or fraud. A government’s job is to protect the individual’s rights in this regard; not to violate them.

Put simply: Education should no more be sanctioned and funded by the state than religion. It’s precisely because education is so important that it should not be sanctioned or funded by the government.

Those who want to fight what’s going on in Mississippi have no leg to stand on when conservatives say, “Why do you have a right to use tax dollars to teach agnosticism and social liberalism, while I have no right to use tax dollars to teach them God?” The irrationality in Mississippi is the dead end of an irrationality that started in Washington DC, and has now found its way to the “grass roots” of the “red” states.

Statistics continue to show that home-schooled children outperform public school children. [See, as just one example, “Study: Home-Schooled Kids Beat Public School Kids in Math, Reading” published in The Blaze 9/15/11.] What does this tell you? That home-schooling is inherently superior and the only way to educate children? Of course not. But the fact that home-schooling outperforms the billions spent at the federal and local levels on educating children surely tells you something about the quality of that education. It would be amazing enough that amateur educators could perform equally well with public school teaching professionals, but they’re actually outperforming them. Public schools as we know them are not doing the job, and that’s one of the reasons why we should dispense with them altogether, and open up an entirely free market for education.

Liberty for religion to do whatever it wants is what leads to the Mississippi fiasco. The only kind of liberty that matters is the right to be free from coercion. Let religious and nonreligious parents, and other interested parties, voluntarily fund or pay for the schooling of their choice. That’s the only kind of liberty we need.

  • mkkevitt

    The best reason to dispense with tax funded education is it violates individual rights. That’s more important than even the quality of the education. This goes for all tax funded education, not just tax funded education as we know it. Mike Kevitt

  • Douglas Mayfield

    Dr. Hurd identifies the real problem in this country which is that there is no fundamental difference between the Right and the Left, Democrats and Republicans, Conservatives or Liberals, on the question ‘What is the relationship between the individual and the state?’

    Both sides agree that whatever the state wants to do is ‘the good’.

    (Witness the bailouts begun by George Bush and happily continued by Obama to the great detriment and possible destruction of our financial future.)

    Both sides embrace the idea that government is the source of ‘good’, so whichever side is in power passes legislation to enforce their agenda.
    When power changes hands, we’re stuck the nonsense that particular side dumped into the law books and whatever legislative poison the new regime may dream up for our ‘benefit’.

    If not checked, this approach to government is a ‘sure fire’ recipe for dictatorship.
    And we are headed in that direction.

    The solution? Freedom and inviolate individual rights with their corollary, strictly limited government.

    Unfortunately, I have not heard one politician say any such thing and do not expect to do so.

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