From the Worldwide Faith News archives

UCC leaders say voucher ruling undermines First Amendment

Date Thu, 27 Jun 2002 15:08:41 -0400

June 27, 2002
Ron Buford, press contact
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Cleveland, Ohio 
 The United Church of Christ Justice and Witness
Ministries deplores that the United States Supreme Court abandoned support
for public education today (June 27) when it found the Cleveland school
voucher program constitutional. The UCCs Justice and Witness Ministries
was party to an amicus brief in this case that opposed the voucher program
because it fails to provide a practical long-term solution to the
educational crisis in the public school system. While the UCC has always
defended the right of parents to choose private or parochial education, the
denomination has historically supported public investment in the schools
that serve all children on behalf of the community.

As a mainline Protestant, Christian denomination, the UCC further deplores
that, in this case, the Supreme Court has redefined the meaning of the
Establishment Clause of the Constitution by failing to consider that in
nearly all the schools in the Cleveland program, public funds pay for
mandatory religious instruction.

We are dismayed that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the public
interest by redirecting public funding from Clevelands public schools to
parochial and private schools.  Clevelands public schools desperately need
additional dollars to serve 77,000 children, many of whom are especially
vulnerable because of poverty and racial segregation, said Jan Resseger,
Minister for Public Education and Witness in the UCCs Justice and Witness

As a public policy matter, the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries opposes
the voucher program in Cleveland, which seizes money from the Cleveland
public schools portion of  Disadvantaged Pupil Impact Aid (DPIA), the
funding stream created by the Ohio legislature to assist school districts
with a large percentage of children in poverty.  In the 2001-2002 school
year alone, the voucher program is estimated to have cost the Cleveland
Municipal Schools $8 million in state DPIA dollars. Many students receiving
vouchers have always attended private and parochial schools, and have
never, in fact, attended public schools.

As a strong supporter of the First Amendment separation of church and
state, the UCC seeks to protect citizens freedom to worship as they choose
and protests that schools in Cleveland are using public funds to impose
their own religious values on innocent children. More than 99 percent of
children receiving vouchers in Cleveland are using those vouchers in
parochial schools, many of which make no attempt to hide that the children
are required to participate in the schools religious instruction, whatever
their own familys faith.

The United Church of Christs Justice and Witness Ministries, based in
Cleveland, coordinates and implements the denominations peace and justice
advocacy mandates on behalf of 1.4 million members in more than 6,000
congregations in the United States and Puerto Rico.

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