Testimony on Equity in Educational Aid

As a community of Christian citizens, we believe that God has given certain basic responsibilities to parents in the education of their children. Parents are called by God to sec to it that their children are adequately educated. They are also responsible to God for determining the religious direction of their children’s education.

We believe God has placed upon government the task of recognizing these parental responsibilities. This was done when the Supreme Court secured as a basic legal right the parental responsibility to determine the religious direction of their children’s education (Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, 1925). Government must also see to it that education capable of protecting and promoting the general welfare is readily available and properly used. It has done this by many provisions for increasing the availability of quality education, and by compulsory education laws requiring minimum education for all children. We are thankful for the many evidences of our government’s increasing support of quality education on a more equitable basis for all citizens and their children.

We would remind our government, however, that full freedom and equality in education do not yet exist in fact. This problem has been intensified because American society today is both complex and religiously pluralistic. Social complexity has created the need for upgrading and extending compulsory education laws. At the same time, religious pluralism was increasing in both scope and intensity. As a result of these and other factors, the one and only system of education presently supported by government is required by Supreme Court decisions to aim at complete religious neutrality. We question whether education can ever be completely and consistently neutral in its religious values and commitments. But it is not our purpose to discuss this point in this statement. For what is absolutely certain is that schools which are required by law to attempt complete religious neutrality are compatible with the religious faith of only some groups of American citizens. Other groups of equally loyal citizens, although they accept and support compulsory education laws as legitimate and necessary, nevertheless cannot commit their children to such schools without denying some of the basic tenets of their religious faith. Such groups of citizens, be they Buddhist, Moslem, Jewish, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, or of some other faith, face a cruel and inequitable dilemma in education today. They must either suffer financial disability in paying the full cost of religiously acceptable education for their own children, or violate their religion and conscience by sending their children to schools which are required by law to aim at complete religious neutrality. This arrangement surely constitutes significant social injustice, and seems also to infringe upon constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion.

As a community of Christian citizens, we have always and do now believe and confess that all of life, whether as parent, neighbor, citizen, or job holder, must be related to and lived out of God, who in Jesus Christ is the very source, motivation, and meaning of our total existence. Within such a perspective, it is clear that the very process of becoming educated is itself an integral dimension of our Christian view of all of life. But in our complex society, it is the school which must provide much of the preparation for life as parent, neighbor, citizen, and job holder. It would, therefore be a direct violation of our religious faith and of our conscience to accept religiously neutral schools as adequate to prepare our children for this total Christian life in the world.

We request, therefore, immediate action by government to ameliorate the present inequities and injustices in education. We ask that quality education be provided on an equitable basis for citizens of all races religions and social classes. We reemphasize that legislation to achieve this goal must provide maximum freedom of religion in education and equality of educational opportunity for all groups of citizens. Care must be taken lest such legislation contribute to discrimination against and disadvantage to any particular social class, racial, ethnic, or religious group. Those groups desiring for their children education committed to religious neutrality must continue to receive full and equal support for such education. But the same rights and opportunities must be more equitably realized and secured for those groups whose religious faiths are compromised if they must send their children to schools which are required by law to aim at complete religious neutrality. We are convinced that our governmental bodies can write and enact legislation which will maintain the full religious freedoms and educational opportunities now enjoyed by only some groups of citizens, while significantly extending these rights and opportunities to those other groups of citizens in our society whose members arc now required to suffer religious, financial, and educational inequities and disabilities in the task of educating their children.

We call upon government at every level, local, state, and federal, to enact with all deliberate speed the legislation needed to provide greater equity in educational aid for all citizens.

Christian Action Group of Western Michigan 1677 Gentian Drive, S. E. Grand Rapids, Michigan 49508

Dr. Gordon J. Spykman, Chairman

Dr. Paul G. Schrotenboer, Secretary

Mr. Jack De Vos, Treasurer