We didn’t learn about President Obama’s attack on Catholic and Protestant schools in Ireland from our local tabloid in Cincinnati, but it has resonated on the internet. Giving a talk to students on June 17 in Belfast, our President advised them that they would be better off if they did not have separate schools. He said that having separate school systems “encourages division” and “discourages cooperation.” I have no idea how a non-religious school would treat the “troubles” of Ireland and how it would deal with private and public morality, but we do have ample experience in these United States.
Tax support was first given to public schools so that they would teach morality—right from wrong—in the hopes that students would make upright law-abiding citizens. The text in many of these schools was the Bible, but the interpretation was anti-Catholic. Thus the Catholic Church was forced to build its own school system as an alternative to having Catholic children regularly subjected to both anti-Catholic prejudice as well as teaching. This was buttressed by a series of anti-Catholic court decisions that forbade any sort of support for the citizen-students who attended the non-public schools.
Thus for too many years Catholics have experienced in this country something similar to the fate of Catholics and other non-Muslims who live in countries with legal systems built on the Islamic Sharia. They have to pay a special punitive tax that provides no benefit to them as taxpayers. The same is true of Catholics in the United States who want their children to be educated in Catholic schools. While the country as a whole benefits from such education, its support falls on Catholics as a special expense in addition to the taxes they already pay for the public schools. The same is true of Protestants who have seen their once-Protestant public schools completely secularized and now devoid of moral education and thus establish their own schools.
The theme of this blogsite is the quotation from President George Washington’s Farewell Address. If he could return, he would be aghast at the abandonment of the teaching of religion and morality in our tax-supported schools. What is needed for the improvement of education in these United States is for all tax-supported funds to follow the students regardless of the schools they attend. This would result in a healthy competition between the various schools that would benefit everybody.
But that will not start to happen during this administration. While he can offer his advice on reducing division and encouraging cooperation in Ireland, here in these United States President Obama is insisting that Catholic schools be just as secular as the public schools. In fact, if they do not accept his Birth Control Mandate, they will have to pay a punitive Sharia-like fine that will force them to close.