Religious-School Financing and Educational Pluralism in the American Tradition
Antonianum Periodicum Trimestre, Vol. 84, 2009
25 Pages Posted: 8 May 2009 Last revised: 24 Jun 2009
Date Written: May 7, 2009
The pattern of church-state relations in the United States presents what many Europeans may see as a paradox. America is by far the most religiously observant of Western nations, yet it provides far less than many Western European nations in government support for religiously affiliated education at the primary and secondary levels, the most important years in forming children's minds. This article, written for a European audience, reviews two explanations for the American tradition of no financing. One is "pluralist," asserting that religious primary and secondary schools can better maintain their independence and identity without state aid because aid brings state regulation; and the second "cohesionist," asserting that while nonsectarian religion is socially valuable, schools of particular denominations undercut social unity by separating children in their formative years and therefore should not be encouraged with government support. I offer a few reasons why the pluralist approach to education is more attractive than the cohesionist approach. Finally, I assess whether the tradition against financing of religious primary and secondary schools does in fact promote educational pluralism, and I conclude that, on balance, it is better for pluralism that religious schools have the option to receive state financing.
Keywords: Religion, First Amendment, Establishment Clause, religious schools, pluralism, comparative constitutional law
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