Interfaith Alliance Urges Congress to Reject School Vouchers, Respect Religious Freedom

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WASHINGTON — As Congress considered renewing its work of foricng a school voucher program on the Washington, D.C., Interfaith Alliance head, Rabbi Jack Moline, wrote the following letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee urging them to protect religious freedom by stopping public money from flowing to private, parochial schools:


The Honorable Jason Chaffetz
House Oversight & Government Reform
2236 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Elijah Cummings
Ranking Member
House Oversight & Government Reform
2230 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

May 12, 2015

Dear Chairman Chaffetz and Ranking Member Cummings,

On behalf of the members of Interfaith Alliance, individuals across the country belonging to seventy-five different faith traditions as well as no particular faith tradition, I write to register our strong opposition to the DC voucher program and, indeed, all voucher programs that fund private schools. Our organization is committed to the integrity and freedom of American religious communities and to the stalwart defense of the First Amendment – both of which are undermined when public tax dollars fund private, parochial schools.

Certainly, if America’s religious communities are to remain vibrant and strong, then every community must retain the right to educate young people in the doctrine and practices of its traditions. These beliefs need not agree with secular understandings of science and history to be worthy of protection; religious education need not have the goal of preparing our children for the 21st century workforce to be valued. However, these are the primary goals of public education, and when religious schools receive government money they are necessarily subject to scrutiny and evaluation. This puts the government in a position of determining which religious doctrines – which types of religious education – live up to educational standards and merit public support. Such external judgment and evaluation of religious communities and beliefs is untenable if we are to maintain religious freedom in America – yet it is unavoidable if we continue to send our public money to private schools.

The civil rights and religious freedom of students at private, parochial schools are also of deep concern to all those who champion the First Amendment. Too often private schools receiving public money are not held to the same civil rights standards as public schools, including those standards set in Title VI, Title IX, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). When religious schools use their exemptions to compromise the rights and freedoms of their students, they justify gender discrimination, dictate the religious practices of students, and jeopardize the rights of students with disabilities. Moreover, they do so with public money and thus the tacit cooperation of the government.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby and the debates over religious freedom legislation in Indiana and Arkansas, many in our nation have been reexamining the relationship between our Constitution’s promise of religious freedom and the protection of civil rights. But surely there must be clear line: when an entity receives federal funding – in the form of a school voucher, or otherwise – it must fully comply with federal civil rights standards, regardless of its religious affiliation.

It is for these reasons that I urge you not to renew the DC Voucher program. As we move forward as a nation in the work of safeguarding the religious freedom and civil rights of all, such public funding of private, religious schools, stands out as a particularly egregious threat to religious freedom.


Rabbi Jack Moline,
Executive Director
Interfaith Alliance