Separation of Church and State: How It is Playing Into School Funding.
The subject of school funding in the United States is a hot-button subject. There are calls in many districts for the school budgets to be increased and for teachers to get higher salaries. Additionally, some states have been pushing for churches to provide school funding through vouchers, which has met opposition from the Church and secularists—taking a closer look at the separation of Church and state, and how this principle impacts the issue of funding public schools.
A professor in Educational Leadership at Western Michigan University, Brett A. Geier, holds a Ph.D. in Psychology. His experience in K-12 public education as a teacher, principal, and superintendent has been precious to him. His academic research focuses mainly on school finance and law. In Geier’s article titled “Public School Fundraisers: The Legal Obstacles and Protections for School Officials,” he discusses how fewer resources are being allocated to curricular and co-curricular activities in the world of funding public schools. To improve budgets for clubs, athletic teams, and other groups, students direct fundraisers with the guidance of school officials. It used to be thought that many of these fundraising events offered opportunities to bring a group or team together. Due to the current legal paradigms, the conduct of fundraisers has become much more nebulous and may create increased liability for school officials. Towards this end, the following objectives are addressed:
Legal philosophy is outlined here that must be adhered to in order to avoid negligence or constitutional violations.
Several fundraising activities are outlined, the legal framework that governs them, and how to avoid pitfalls.
Throughout the book, a compendium and discussion section synthesize the various legal frameworks into a general paradigm that practicing administrators can use to avoid violations or liability.
Considering the points raised in this article, it would seem that the process of sponsoring fundraising activities is so fraught with pitfalls that school administrators would approve very few of these types of activities for fear of legal repercussions. It has always been a challenge for students who are part of an organization or club to raise money to build esprit de corps – being in charge of an organization’s finances can be rewarding and helpful. The vision of students to sell a product or service to enhance their co-curricular experiences is frequently interpreted as students dedicated to improving their learning and developing skills. Generally, students and the groups and organizations that sponsor them are encouraged to raise funds independently from resources allocated directly by the school to provide the best experience. You could conduct a fundraiser by selling a good or service and collecting money. As a result of the numerous laws, regulations, and precedents in public schools, a judicial nexus has developed. In this way, issues once considered unrelated to fundraising activities, such as nutritional guidelines, now provide guidance as to what can be sold.
A study published in The Sociological Quarterly examines how Americans feel about the separation of Church and state and what they want from the government. The study was conducted by Kathleen E. Hull, a Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, and Penny Edgell, a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. The paper examines how ordinary Americans talk about the separation of Church and state using data collected from focus group discussions of a faith-based prison ministry program. Analyzing these data makes it possible to determine what people understand to be the issue about faith-based social services. They also explain their reasons for identifying a particular prison ministry as violating church-state separation or not, going beyond the tally of pro and con positions provided by surveys. The majority of respondents (43%) expressed some opposition to the prison ministry program. Approximately one-third of respondents expressed ambivalence, and roughly one in five (22%) said they agreed. An overwhelming majority (51%) of respondents felt that the program did promote church-state separation. Still, approximately one-third (32%) stated that it did not, and nearly one in five (18%) expressed uncertainty about whether it did or did not advertise it. Cross-tabulation of participants’ views on the program and church-state violation reveals a strong relationship. In the study, participants who believed the program violated church-state separation were more likely to oppose it than those who thought there was no violation or were uncertain about it. Participants in the focus groups and the interviews indicated that church-state violations contributed to their opposition to or ambivalence towards the program. In this study, the findings suggest that moral concerns matter significantly in shaping citizens’ views on church-state separation and the likelihood of meaningful political compromise on the issue of government support for faith-based social services.
Joseph Martin Dawson describes how the separation of Church and state came to be in his book The Meaning of Separation of Church and State in the First Amendment. Dawson was the first executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs and was recognized as one of the most ardent defenders of religious freedom and the separation of Church and state. He graduated from Baylor University, served as a Baptist pastor for over forty years, and wrote twelve books and numerous articles. Civil libertarian and denominational leader, he is one of the founders of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. His involvement with the editorial council of the Journal of Church and State continued until his death. Founded in 1957 in Dawson’s honor, the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies was devoted to studying church-state relations.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What does this mean exactly? It was a complex term, and there have been many different interpretations of what it means, and it has played a role in a wide variety of contexts over the years. If the incorrect interpretation was used, the Constitution could suffer a change. Unlike the first paragraph of the Bill of Rights, this provision does not use the Church. A better word would be religion to make the point. Until the state can judge your religious feelings in the way it sees fit, there can be no equality of conscience as long as it is allowed to tax children to support any religion. To which they do not subscribe, there can be no equality of belief and respect even if we accept that Patrick Henry Washington, Jefferson, and other founding fathers violated the very spirit of the Constitution. Jefferson, often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution,” opposed the proposal.
In summary, school funding is a hot-button issue. Some states want church-based vouchers to fund schools. Professor Brett Geier is a professor of educational leadership at Western Michigan University. His article, titled “Public School Fundraisers: The Legal Obstacles and Protections for School Officials,” discusses how fundraisers have become more uncertain due to evolving legal paradigms. Based on this article, it appears that raising funds for a school-related club is fraught with legal pitfalls, and so most schools would not approve any fundraising activities. Through focus group discussions about the prison ministry program, a study was conducted to examine how Americans feel about the separation of Church and State. According to the results, moral concerns influence citizens’ views on church-state separation. Joseph Martin Dawson defines the separation of Church and State in the First Amendment.
Dawson, Joseph M. “The meaning of separation of church and state in the First Amendment.” J. Church & St. 50 (2008): 677.
Geier, Brett A. “Public School Fundraisers: The Legal Obstacles and Protections for School Officials.” NASSP bulletin. 101.2 (2017): 142–161. Web.
Hull, Kathleen E., and Penny Edgell. “How Americans Talk about Separation of Church and State: Moral Frameworks of Justice and Care.” The Sociological Quarterly 62.2 (2021): 258-281.