Saturday, September 20, 2014
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Morality in America

Morality in America

When studying the founding of the United States, you can’t help but encounter the faith of the nation’s forefathers. Time and again they recognized God’s hand in the shaping of America. You will find Him repeatedly mentioned in their words and documents. And you will find Him having an active, vibrant role in the country’s early history.

Today, God continues His work in America – but it’s in a nation that has clearly lost its moral compass. Every week, “Morality in America” will address the myriad of moral concerns facing the United States and undermining its Godly heritage.  After you read, remember to intercede in prayer for America – that this nation will return to the Christian standards that once defined it.

Tax Credit Conundrum For Education

MoralityInAmericaNew Hampshire ruling highlights issues for private religious instruction

By Gigi Cook

In 2012, the New Hampshire legislature overrode the governor’s veto to pass a law authorizing an education tax credit to fund private schools. The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United For Separation of Church and State filed suit stating the law violated the Blaine Amendment which prevents state funds from being used for religious training. The issue went to the State Supreme Court.

Last week New Hampshire’s Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court ruling and will allow parents to use state tax credit programs to fund private education including education by religious organizations. The decision was based on consideration of who has legal standing to challenge the law. The majority opinion reads: “Because the petitioners fail to identify any personal injury suffered by them as a consequence of the alleged constitutional error, they have failed to establish that they have standing to bring their constitutional claim.”

Those supporting educational tax credits for private education, which includes homeschooling, may have won a battle but the war is ongoing in several states. Many home school parents feel they are being double-taxed, arguing that they provide for their own children’s education, yet still contribute through taxation to public education. Solutions to the problem typically involve government vouchers or creating home-based charter schools.

Courts have recognized the difficulties in using state funds for private religious education and have been careful to delineate the differences between vouchers, charters and tax credits. Most hold that tax credits are not governmental funds but rather tax payer dollars, and therefore are not subject to regulations on religious curriculum. Utilizing a tax credit is simply the legislature recognizing that the money belongs to the tax payer and letting them keep it.

Vouchers come in the form of a check from the government, which parents can use at a school of their choice or to pay homeschooling expenses. Home-based charter schools allow a parent to teach their child at home with resources paid for by the school. However, both scenarios use government funds that come with a myriad of rules and strings attached, specifically the restriction in use of religious textbooks and curriculum.

In 2001, an Illinois appeals court upheld their educational tax credit law stating: “The credit at issue here does not involve any appropriation of public funds, rather, the Act allows Illinois parents to keep more of their own money to spend on the education of their children.”

Arizona also addressed the issue in 1999 through Kotterman vs. Killian, ruling: “According to Black’s Law Dictionary, public money is revenue received from federal, state, and local governments derived from taxes, fees, fines, etc. As respondents note, no money ever enters the state’s control as a result of a tax credit. Nothing is deposited in the state treasury or other accounts under the management or possession of governmental agencies or public officials. Thus, under any common understanding of the words, we are not here dealing with public money.”

Educational tax credits have been successful in all three states that have enacted them:

Although some courts have agreed that tax credits can be used for religious purposes, a legislature could proactively limit a credit to secular material. While the ruling in New Hampshire was decided on the legal standing of the plaintiff, the court stressed that taxpayers can have standing when suing the government over a program or policy.

“Our decision in this case does not mean that a taxpayer can never have standing to challenge governmental actions,” wrote the court. “When a taxpayer has a sufficiently personal and concrete interest to confer standing, the taxpayer may seek judicial relief.”

Today, people of faith should pray that:

Gigi Cook is a writer, speaker and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist with a Masters Degree in psychology. Her work is featured in major radio markets, media publications and corporate leadership programs. Now residing in Durango, CO,  Gigi enjoys her work and collecting American Antiques.

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