Sunday, January 25, 2015

Constitutional Cash?

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) has recently passed a House Bill that allows public schools to be eligible for a mentorship program if they partner with a religious or faith based organization as well as a business. His 10 million dollar plan states that the faith-based component is mandatory and not optional as it was previously made to seem. The governor is making faith-based organizations seemingly more important than other types of organizations, which is a clear violation of the separation of church and state.
Secular schools must designate a faith organization as their partner in order to receive money for the program. Senior policy analyst for the Ohio Department of Education, Buddy Harris, noted that, "The faith-based organization is clearly at the heart of the vision of the governor." The governor is in a secular position and yet he is imposing his own views upon his constituents by making the religious element necessary. He said himself, "The Good Lord has a purpose for each and every one of them (students)…” His motives could not be more clear and yet he managed to pass his agenda.
Originally, religious based organizations were just considered potential partners for the mentorship program. The addition to the Bill that made the faith-based part mandatory came after the Bill itself had already passed through both chambers of the state legislature. Essentially, legislators did not vote on the faith based aspect being mandatory, they only voted on it being a potential option. Kasich has a responsibility, as a public official, to adhere to a certain degree of transparency. In my opinion, he did not act transparently in this instance. In addition, he acted in his own best interest, which he has made clear and his own best interest goes against the First Amendment.
I think that this addition to the Bill clearly violates the Establishment Clause. In order to receive government money, schools that are secular must partner with a religious organization. Having religious views is one thing but imposing them on those who may not have the same views is a violation of the First Amendment.
Although it does not favor one faith organization over another, the addition to the Bill still makes a religious organization a mandatory aspect of the program. In Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) the Lemon test was established in a unanimous decision. The Lemon test states that there must not be excessive government entanglement with religion and that there must be a secular legislative purpose. This addition to the bill directly breaches the Lemon test criterion.

To me, it does not make any sense to add a faith based program as a stipulation for a government program. I feel as though it is only a matter of time before there is a case to overturn this but I find it interesting that this was able to happen in the first place. It doesn’t seem Constitutional to have attached a religious stipulation in order for a secular school district to receive government funding.


Liz E said...

This case seems obvious to me and leaves me wondering how governor Kasich could get away with this. To me, it is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. Though it does not establish one certain religion, it establishes a religious preference over a secular one. This gives a strong incentive for schools to partner with a religious group, over a secular or scholarly partner. I also agree that he was completely not transparent through this process and almost manipulated his constituents. I believe that this case should be looked into by officials to determine the constitutionality of it.

Tommy S said...

I agree with both Courtney’s argument and Liz’s comment. It is really a shame that Governor Kasich manipulated this program in such a way that is unconstitutional. The program and the funding committed to it seem like an excellent way to make a positive impact on students’ lives. As both Liz and Courtney have mentioned, compelling a student to partner with a religious institution is a blatant violation of the First Amendment. It also impedes on a person’s right to have no religion at all, which the Supreme Court has recognized in cases such as Kaufman v. McCaughtry.

Ben K. said...

I agree with all the comments that Kasich, being in a secular position, has violated his responsibility to maintain his neutrality. By taking on his role of governor, Kaisch should have removed his religious views from his policy choices. Through his addition to the bill, Kaisch is in clear violation of the First Amendment. The governor has violated his responsibility of neutrality and as such, should seek to rectify the actions he has committed through backing this addition to the bill.