Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

What Republicans can learn from their failure in Georgia

This was supposed to be a good year for Republicans in my home state. It may still be, in some respects. But Republicans have learned that controlling the Governor’s office and both branches of the state legislature (by healthy margins) for the first time since Reconstruction doesn’t guarantee passage of their agenda.

The issue with which I’m concerned is the revision of Georgia’s Blaine Amendment, about which I’ve posted here (with links to other relevant posts). Today’s Atlanta paper has this article, which says that the Georgia Council for Moral and Civic Concerns has thrown its entire support to this alternative, which is (thankfully) a long shot to pass, given the legislative calendar.

The failed measure, which simply would have aligned the Georgia constitution’s religion provisions with the First Amendment, fell a few votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority in the state senate. So far as I can tell, no one ever made the case that opponents were voting against the First Amendment (albeit as interpreted by an essentially incoherent Supreme Court).

The substitute measure has three principal defects. First, it prohibits mission-sensitive hiring (aka religious discrimination in hiring), which I defended here. Second, it prohibits the use of vouchers at any faith-drenched program, such as Teen Challenge. And third, it explicitly rules out vouchers for elementary and secondary education, but not for the pre-k and college scholarships funded by Georgia’s lottery. Nevertheless, it does nothing to remedy the obvious constitutional problems that these programs face, which I outlined here.

As I noted before, it was the teachers’ unions’ fear of educational vouchers that derailed the measure, even though all the Governor’s proposal would have done is eliminate a constitutional barrier, which is not the same thing as enacting a law providing for them. The fact that the Governor’s proposal commanded a majority (but not a supermajority) suggests that on a straight up or down vote, a voucher proposal might have passed. But the unions didn’t have to assemble a majority to defeat a legislative proposal; they just had to hold together a minority to defeat a constitutional amendment. In other words, they’re hiding behind Georgia’s constitutional status quo because they can’t win the public policy argument in the legislature.

For the reasons outlined above, I don’t think Governor Perdue and his allies should support the alternative measure. The status quo, with all of its problems, is better than establishing still more barriers to Georgia’s version of the faith-based initiative.

On the national level, Republicans should take heed to avoid situations which put determined minorities in the driver’s seat. D’oh! They clearly shouldn’t stand for anything like this. It’s time to use that majority in the Senate to change the rules on judicial nominations and call the Democrats’ bluff on shutting down the government. Or else we (they) can permit the Democrats to decide who the judicial nominees should be.

Discussions - 1 Comment

Vouchers for religious education are a simple matter of justice.

We must face the fact that there is no longer a cultural consensus sufficient to educate children in public schools in a manner that is consistent with the value systems of their parents. The big divide here is between the secular leftist philosophy and traditional religious perspectives.

Every contemporary educational philosophy proposes that the schools educate the "whole child." This means that religion is either a central concern of the school or that religion is trivialized. Neutrality is simply not possible without adopting a very narrow skill-based approach which is rejected by all educators.

If there is a need for the state to fund the costs of educating children (and there is), there is no need to do this through a public monopoly over the schools.

Freedom of religion requires that public funding of education be accomplished in a way that respects the role of parents as the primary educators of children. The obvious way to do this is vouchers.

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