A Breached Agreement

I am ceding today’s post to a longtime friend, Chris Douglas. I have frequently criticized school voucher programs, for the reasons Chris lists and for several others, but he brings a particular perspective to the issue– and a well-founded belief that school vouchers breach the promises of Indiana’s constitution.

With his permission, his recent Facebook post on the subject is below.

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I’ve reflected lately on the number of things that I have found jaw-dropping late in life…. that I could never have imagined… the latest being the State of Texas not only opening up fully and abandoning masks while so many of its populations are totally vulnerable.. but attacking municipalities like Austin that have maintained mask mandates.

Vouchers delivering tax payer money to religious ministries that discriminate blatantly against innumerable Hoosiers, but LGBT Hoosiers especially, likewise are jaw dropping to me, as flagrant violations of our State Constitution. The… I don’t know what to call it… cavalier attitude….indifference… disregard… that I find among some people of influence.. with regard to the plain words, intent, meaning and spirit of our constitution protecting us explicitly from being coerced into the support of ministries against our consent… prohibiting money from going from the state treasury to religious institutions…. and banning religious qualification for offices of public trust and profit….. all flagrantly and intentionally violated by Indiana’s Voucher laws in their current form.

Now we are all of us .. after 200 years of religious freedom in Indiana… being taxed to support “education” that the Catholic Church and various Evangelical Churches have openly declared are ministries.. funded by money flowing *directly* from the treasury to those religious institutions…. who are refusing to hire and indeed are firing LGBT people on religious grounds.

Honestly, when I pledged my life to this country as a military officer… and when I returned to Indiana as a gay man… a place where my roots run so deep I get emotional… I thought we had a deal. I *thought* others would defend my rights just as I had pledged my life to defend theirs… That others would take seriously the Constitution that in Indiana has given us so much peace and freedom, each to think, believe, and worship as we might wish… none to impose our faith upon others…. all to accept each other as equals under the protections of the law in the common cause of our democracy.

I find… even among readers here… you know who you are… you really don’t give a damn. You think it’s perfectly acceptable. You hold no one accountable. You don’t understand… you certainly don’t embrace… your personal obligations to finally speak up for the rights of people who aren’t you. You’ve pushed for this. As if state funding of discriminatory.. indeed, in some instances, hateful, ministries.. is the only way of achieving our Constitutional imperative of providing education.

And some of you line your pockets in the process… or cozy socially, professionally, or politically about… silent while hatreds are funded.. whipped up… with public money… against your fellow citizens. Somebody else’s job to fight. Not yours. Not your social, political, or professional capital to expend.

Even before the Archdiocese declared every teacher, counselor, and administrator a minister… even while academy after academy receiving public funding (while promoting creationism… the subjugation of women… and damnation for all who do not believe precisely as they) declare themselves ministries of their narrow faith…. even as we contemplate the silent, sometimes terminal, darkness into which we plunge lgbt youth, condemned even by their own parents…

I reflect on the private words… the sneer… of one leader of this mess to me: “You’re not supporting any ministry….” calling black, white…. calling up, down… calling a circle a square. Why? Because he really just doesn’t care.

Here in Indiana, we had a deal. It’s in writing. It’s 200 years old. It has enabled people of strong and diverse and conflicitng faiths to live with each other in peace and mutual acceptance as has not been possible in Europe, Ireland, the Middle east or Burma. It appears to me that deal is over, the contract not even shredded, just denied while looking us in the eye and daring us to defend ourselves against your attack.

I thought we were in trenches together as Americans, as Hoosiers, whatever our differences, sharing the values of our Constitution as our bond. Turns out, I look around… and your bayonet is fixed against us, our Constitution successfully pocketed, denied, nowhere to be seen. You’ve become what, when I pledged my life in defense of our Constitution, I pledged my life against.

I’ll never understand it. I’ll never get over it.

32 thoughts on “A Breached Agreement

  1. I agree 100%. It does NOT seem like a new development though. I think the Christian White Republican folks have ALWAYS felt like everything belongs to them and them alone.

  2. I’m not a native Hoosier, but I’ve lived here since 1986. The things I thought were givens have been ripped away, it’s been a slow steady march to “Christian” Nationalism. The white patriarchy has become a boot on the neck of the citizens of this state. We are being told we don’t matter, that we are less than.

  3. As I watched the news this morning, national and local, I had the thought that I am glad our own Presbyterian Minister/Mayor Bill Hudnut is not here to see what has been done to his Republican party. Prior to his death he spoke out about his deep disappointment at the turn the party had taken locally; this was before the voucher takeover of our public education tax funds. The blatant Republican lie that the vouchers are legal because the money goes directly to parents and not the schools needs to be confronted in our courts. That will never happen with those such as the latest Republican Indiana Attorney Generals Curtis Hill or Todd Rokita. The voucher system is “A Breached Agreement” morally as it is based on a lie and broken promise in our State Constitution to educate all children.

  4. Vouchers launder money to religious schools through the parents.

    In criminal law, money laundering is illegal. Why not with vouchers? The Supreme Courts at federal and state levels used to abide by a dictum that if it was illegal to do something directly, then it was illegal to do it indirectly. No more.

  5. Chris Douglas; sounds like a pretty astute individual! I agree 100%, and I posted the exact same things on this blog!

    I’ve spoken out against the school voucher programs using taxpayer money to support religious educational institutions, and, there shouldn’t be a support of taxpayer money for any educational institution at any level including our highest levels of learning. (Notre Dame as an example)!

    But, this is what happens when you slowly chip away at constitutional protections! (example) Catholic charities getting grants from the federal government to run Meals on Wheels and other programs supported by taxpayer money, but have the nerve to discriminate against different groups of taxpayers on the basis of religious ideals!

    Early Christianity practiced political neutrality, they paid Caesar’s things to Caesar, as Christ said! This changed after the Nicene counsel in 325 A.D., long after the death of the last of Christ’s apostles. Of course this was way before even a hint or gleam of our current country and government, and was in the figurative and literal last days of the Roman Empire.

    So, as we go back to Christ, he is basically quoted at John 17:16, in which he exclaimed “I am no part of the world!” And, he definitely meant what he said, but what did he say? And what did he mean?

    In Christ’s parable of what most people know as the good Samaritan, he was pointing out the obligation of Christians or those following him, Christ, to love your neighbor, to love God, and, to even love your enemy! These were tenants that Christ told his followers that the whole law hung on!

    He pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees of the Sanhedrin, and how they brought in money changers to the temple, against Mosaic law! Also, how they meddled in Roman politics at the time, all the while complaining about having to pay taxes to the Roman government. Hence, Christ made his statement to “give Caesar’s things to Caesar, and God’s things to God.”

    Christ himself separated from earthly politics when he made that statement mentioned above, and which is quoted in whole; ” “They are no part of the world just as I am no part of the world.” “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”

    So the separation was initiated by Christ, and unfortunately, after the death of Christ and his apostles, Christianity was melded into government by Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire. This was the beginnings of the Christianity power grab, and, them (papist and other burgeoning sects) controlling politics on the European continent and vast swaths of Asia.

    The founding fathers recognized the hypocrisy of using Christianity as a bludgeon because Christianity’s namesake Christ, did not!

    “Caesar’s things to Caesar and God’s things to God” and as Christ explained in this quote, the superior authorities as mentioned in Romans the 13th chapter, offered education, protection, goods and services, for all taxpayers! But, that his followers should stay out of the functioning of Caesar’s and other governments! Because, Christ himself said that “his kingdom was no part of this world” and therefore, although that would also be the case for his followers, they should stay out of the functioning of government, but obeying its laws. And, that his followers should apply his (Christ’s) teachings to this effect, and, not meddle in man’s government, just be respectful of it!

    Thomas Jefferson, Viscount Bolingbrook, Joseph Priestley, John Locke, and Thomas Paine, amongst others were very well aware of the dangers in allowing religion a free reign in the political realm. That a rise in religious fanaticism would plunge the world into constant conflict, as it did for millennia, and, would devour this country’s burgeoning influence. Therefore, because even during the time of these above mentioned early men of our nation and, others, there were Abrahamists (Muslims) Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and these people were all taxpayers, but all had different religious practices. So the separation was to prevent Tumalt in government. Taxpayer money would go towards secular rule, and, government programs would benefit all individuals, without strings attached by religion.

    The reversal of this separation, not only goes against many of our founding fathers wishes and our Constitution, it also goes against the wishes of Jesus Christ who was the progenitor of Christianity! So, there should be no question, this separation should be rocksolid, bound in iron! Any weakening of this philosophy from our Constitution and Christ himself should be rejected, and, should be restored to its original intent!

  6. Another example of a truly broken and utterly corrupt system of government. It will not stop, and those who are in power will not willingly make meaningful changes to a system that put them into power in the first place. How do we take back power from a corrupt government?

  7. Chris is correct in feeling betrayed because he was also conned into serving in a defense industry that is nothing more than pirates for capitalism.

    I listened to another vet talk about the betrayal he felt while making a sacrifice to serve in the Iraq War only to learn that Bush the younger cut taxes on the billionaires and corporate class. He talked about the tradition that all Americans collectively sacrificed during wartime. He became a champion for the anti-war movement.

    As many countries have pointed out for decades, the USA is a material beast ruled only by money and power. I used to take offense to those observations when I was much younger and naive.

    Watching Mike Pence’s Evangelical crowd in Indiana during his reign of terror as governor and observing the same crowd nationally feign their loyalty to a corrupt buffoonish con man made me puke. I guess con men and women have to stick together. The recurring theme for this so-called religious crowd is hypocrisy. It’s now the theme of the QOP.

    Legitimate institutions corrupt themselves over time in their pursuit of money and power. Greed destroys the ethics and morals of even religious institutions.

    What institutions haven’t become a fraud in the USA?

    Once China surpasses us, they will not even bother looking back. As Biden and his admin talk a tough game to China, we’ve already lost. It’s just barking at this point.

  8. Speaking for myself, I moved on past “betrayal” since 2016 right into “deep disgust” with our state government. As I write this morning my Indiana tax return awaits my signature and a check. What to do? What to do?

  9. I’ve droned before on in comments regarding my objections to Indiana’s K-12 education privatization movement, what its disciples call “school choice”. An ironic brand decision if there was ever one given that it’s often the schools doing the “choosing” and not the parents or students.

    Most people like me who actively support public education focus on the effects that privatization efforts are having on de-funding traditional school districts that serve 90% of Indiana kids. As a results, programming is being constrained, student-teacher ratios are rising, and teacher salaries are essentially frozen, and some neighborhood schools close.

    But Mr. Douglass reminds us there is a far greater breach of trust at work here, one that is specifically guaranteed in both the US and Indiana Constitutions. All Indiana taxpayers (and their households) are being forced to accept and fund religious instruction that may embrace discrimination against other human beings on the basis of one or more of gender identification, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, race and class. I see no viable way that vouchers (and neo-vouchers called Educational Spending Accounts, or ESA’s) can be effectively administered and also guarantee non-discriminatory access and treatment as well as financial transparency and compliance with federal and state education regulations.

    The campaign for K-12 public education is first and foremost one of human rights….not just a fight for a fair share of public tax dollars.

  10. I have no idea how old he is or what war he fought in, but he must be reasonably young to think that he was deemed “equal” in the military. That’s the same military that had to be pushed into “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” before accepting LGBT troops during the Obama administration. Until that occurred, he would have been given either a dishonorable discharge or a general discharge. What difference does that make, you ask. Well, anything other than honorable disqualifies a veteran from most VA benefits (no big deal unless you need them).

    Martin Niemöller said it best and he has often been quoted on this blog, but I’ll happily do it again:
    “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a socialist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

  11. This is what happens when they stack the court system with party hacks – at either or both the state or federal level.

  12. I guess if the oil companies, farmers and the defense industry can live off government money, why not the churches. it’s all lobbying.

  13. To reiterate, Pascal writes, “This is what happens when they stack the court system with party hacks – at either or both the state or federal level.”

    Let me change a few words…this is exactly why the courts have been stacked with Federalist Society hacks.

    Why hasn’t there been a lawsuit filed for violating the state and federal constitution? Where are the teacher’s unions in this?

    Once the suits are filed and make their way up the chain, you’ll see why both parties have allowed conservative judges who will side with the oligarchy.

    We’ll see it all play out while each party points at the other.

  14. Theresa,thanks, from yesterday…
    the sometimes lively,and not so lively conversations can be mixed,in my genre,as a blue collar,we speak two languages,sailor and trucker,i was a sailor once too. hense,double the enjoyment.

    all id like to point out a story i read last night about Lula Desilva,and a reporter who stuck his
    neck out,Alan Macleod..its a consolidation of how the wall street bunch sees Bolisaros and Desilvas possition as presdident of Brazil. this piece,if some one had somebackbone,would be a carbon copy of our own mob/rich in America,and what they think..its has direct story items from some of the largest finacial news,past,and present in regards to the economy and the common citizen,and how the rich think about a liberal/progressive.,and profits over human life..

    commondreams.org. by Alan Macleod,
    dismay over the freeing of Lula Dasilva illistrates the opposition of the buisness press to human rights and rule of law..

  15. First of all, Chris, thank you so much for your service to our country. I am humbled by all those who, like you, are willing to give up their lives to defend the Constitution and the citizens of this nation.

    I don’t doubt that the founders of our country would be dismayed by how the Republicans in this state have managed to create loopholes that undermine the separation of church and state. There is no doubt in my mind that we have thinly veiled white Christian nationalists in this state.

    I have fond memories of my early childhood in my 50’s, but I was sheltered from the ugliness of hate and bigotry against African-Americans, Jews, LGBT people, Asian-Americans.
    I became aware of that ugliness in high school and then later in college.

    My sister who taught for decades knew a male teacher who was gay and told me he was very skilled. She enjoyed working with him in a public school.

    It is tragic that so many religous people are threatened by those who are different from themselves. The same was true when Jesus walked on the earth. These are the same parents who will send their kids to religous schools that are homophobic. After all, you have to be carefully taught to hate.

    I heard a minister once say that his vision of Jesus was that he would walk into a village and agree to heal people in the village if they had a feast afterwards to which EVERYONE would come. That means Chris and I would join the feast. Jesus was a prophet of radically inclusive love.

    Thank you Chris for speaking truth to power. Thank you Shiela for sharing Chris’s prophetic words.

  16. An excellent, though sad, posting.
    Some years ago,while visiting family in northern Kentucky, I literally stepped foot (or two feet) in Indiana, just for the sake of being able to say I had been there. I do not know the history, but expect that any state that could have elected a Pence as gov’r, has had its problems.
    Hey, In N.J., I had a Christy for 2 terms, in Fl., now, I’ve got one heck of a triumvirate!
    I’m guessing that the Christian nationalists, Evangelical, or otherwise, believe they have a “higher” responsibility than to law or constitution.
    I’m in the Bible Belt, and it ain’t easy here, either.

  17. Todd – In re your “why doesn’t someone file suit” language > What if a group of citizen taxpayers ascertained what percentage of the state budget goes to religious education and reduced their tax payments by such percentage and (inevitably) when the state comes after them for unpaid taxes bring up the constitutional defense? Perhaps even Federalist Society jurists could be persuaded that the flimsy “direct money to parents” is a mere cover for denying constitutional command. I am not familiar with the court’s reasoning that allowed this ruse, so perhaps I’m barking up the wrong legal tree, but if I’m off base there are other avenues to attack this blatantly unconstitutional holding. I don’t live in Indiana and don’t pay taxes here so I lack standing to bring a pro se action or defend a suit by the state, otherwise I might research the issue and become personally involved. Idea? Sheila?

  18. Gerald and Todd,

    The Indiana State Teachers’ Association DID sue, raising the explicit language of the Indiana Constitution. The state Supreme Court said vouchers sent money to parents, who could then decide to spend it on religious or secular private schooling. Ergo, no constitutional problem.

    It was bullshit, of course, but here we are…..

  19. I do see some benefits from the voucher program but this says perfectly the objections I have to voucher program being used by religious based schools.

    I agree that this needs a challenge in the courts. I suspect it will be a long time before somebody that is deemed to have standing will come forward. Parents that are taking advantage of vouchers don’t want to stress their kids by bringing a lawsuit over principle, unless it is a gay student that gets kicked out and even then I am sure they will be reluctant to bring that much stress to the family. Even then, a family using vouchers will need the backing of somebody like the ACLU because this is going to be expensive and time consuming.

    I think teachers are on shaky ground with standing because they don’t receive the benefit of the state voucher dollars directly.

    When a lawsuit does come, I am sure the Indiana AG will appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court so it will take years to resolve.

  20. Peggy,

    I’m 56! I was in the Air Force 1988-92…. PRE Don’t ask-don’t tell. I was an intelligence officer with a top-Secret clearance. Concluding that I was gay was one reason that I determined I would need to leave the service. I had a desire for equality then, but no expectation of it.

    Times have changed in part, I would like to think, due to my own vigorous advocacies for lgbt equality here in Indiana. Indeed, *Some* of those who are leading this effort themselves are politicians who signed comprehensive nondiscrimination orders covering sexual orientation and gender identity, helping to move the ball forward. This State financial support for religious discrimination is in part shocking to me because it so conflicts with the orders they themselves gave.

    As for your admonition, I agree. You’d be interested to know that when I was president of the North Central Student Council a group of Jewish students objected to the sophomore class raising a Christmas Tree each year. The objection went through various committees before it failed. I quietly and extensively and with a friend of mine (Catholic) thereafter lobbied Eugene Cloncs, a World War II Veteran, to end the tradition, which we regarded for a publicly-funded institution to be inhospitable to the School’s Jewish population. On the last day of school, in 1983, he agreed. North Central has not had a Christmas tree since. When confronted by parents, he reduced backlash upon the Jewish by telling those parents that it was unnamed Christian students who had taken up the effort. Well.. that was me.

    And don’t even get me started on the instance of racism I encountered in the Air Force that led me to dress down a senior officer and pledge to young black lieutenant that I would back her in whatever effort she might undertake. (She, already badly burned, decided not to go forward.)

    So my *expectation* today is that others do as I expect all of us have an obligation to do: to defend the rights of those of our fellow citizens who are put upon. For the very reason of your admonition. In the end, it is we who we protect.

    Chris D.

  21. Why couldn’t any tax paying Indiana resident bring suit? Seems to me that the State of Indiana is denying its citizens their State and Federal Constitutional right to the separation of religion and state.

  22. From Sheila @ 12:25 – “The Indiana State Teachers’ Association DID sue, raising the explicit language of the Indiana Constitution. The state Supreme Court said vouchers sent money to parents, who could then decide to spend it on religious or secular private schooling. Ergo, no constitutional problem.

    It was bullshit, of course, but here we are…..”

    I suspect the voucher checks are Not sent physically (paper check) or electronically to the parents.

    As far as know, the citizens Do Not have a choice in spending tax dollars collected. So, I cannot designate my gas tax paid to be used only in Marion County. I cannot designate which weapons system in the Pentagon’s Arsenal I wish to fund.

    The “decision” by the state supreme court approved of the outcome they wanted, funding bible thumping schools from public tax dollars.

  23. The initial purpose of vouchers was to finance segregation academies to allow white. parents to circumvent desegregation. To get away from ” those people”

  24. Chris Douglas – An excellent and moving post – thank you.
    Thank you, Sheila, for sharing.

  25. I’m a lifelong Hoosier; I live in what is considered our most ‘liberal’ city by most & the educational system has been stymied by racism since I entered into it. My first-grade teacher called me a nigger & forced me to sit away from the other students. I experienced issues of racism through the completion of my BA in Elementary Education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. You’re only noticing the betrayal to the State Constitution because it personally concerns you now. It should have been of concern to you all along.

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