Our Schools and Government Subsidy (5), A Question of Justice or of Money?

Our editorial department in the last issue lacked space for further treatment of the subject of “parochiaid.” We now continue our discussion of “More Basic Considerations” which was begun in the April 15 issue. 

More Basic Considerations (continued) 

The second consideration which I offer in support of the contention that the entire concept of government subsidy is wrong, that is, contrary to Christian principles of righteousness and justice, may be stated as follows: It is wrong before God to act on the basis that government subsidy is an issue of private (or non-public) schools versus public. schools, wrong to make common cause with enemies of the Reformed faith on that basis, wrong to seek financial support for enemies of the Reformed faith and their schools, and wrong to allow ourselves to be treated on that basis by the state and to accept aid on that basis

Let me remind you that this second consideration is based on an assumption, an “if.” That if is: if it were right for the government to be in the business of education at all! This, you recall, we presented as our first objection of a basic nature. Assuming now that this is right for the government,—which we deny,—then the whole concept of government subsidy would still be principally wrong on the basis of the second basis consideration, stated above. 

Notice, in the first place, that the nature of the entire parochiaid- movement is such that it puts its adherents and its schools on a broad common denominator about which there is absolutely nothing Christian. This is evident from the very names of the two organizations which are pushing for government subsidy here in Michigan. The name of the one is “Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools.” The name of the other is “Citizens for Educational Freedom.” These names point up the nature of the entire movement. Parochial and parental and private, Roman Catholic and Lutheran and Jewish and Christian Reformed and—supposedly—Protestant Reformed schools and their supporters,—all are lumped together without regard to principle and fundamental differences. All are lumped together and make common cause simply on the basis that they are “non-public” or “private.” All supporters are supposed to work together simply on the basis that they are “citizens” and that they are for “educational freedom” (a freedom, remember, which is not defined in Biblical terms, but simply in terms of a secular political philosophy). I ask: is this right? Is this living out of principle? Is this living from the principle that we are called to walk in the midst of the world antithetically from the principle of regeneration? Let me remind you that this is indeed what is involved as far as principle is concerned. This is not only true as far as the active movement to gain such subsidy is concerned; on that score, any genuine supporter and adherent of covenantal education ought to be thoroughly ashamed to be part of a movement which so completely blurs and blots out the lines of the antithesis. But this is also true as far as the government is concerned. The government also simply views all non-public schools as exactly that, and no more, and if it grants aid, will grant it on that basis. And we may not allow ourselves to be treated on that basis. We may not allow ourselves, educationally speaking, to be lumped together. 

No, if it is at all the business of the government to become involved in education, then let us have the courage of our convictions. Let us not say that we are colorlessly non-public, or private. Let us tell the government that we operate parental schools because we believe that is right before God; let us tell the government that we operate covenantal schools because we believe that is right before God; let us tell the government that we operate Reformed schools in which our Reformed, antithetical principles permeate all the instruction, because we believe that is right before God; let us tell them that in schools we offer theonly right education, the only kind of education that before God has the right to be called education, inculcation of knowledge. And then let us tell them that this is the reason why, if they are a Christian government, they will support us and should support us exclusively. You say, perhaps, such speech would kill any chance of government subsidy? I agree heartily. But God forbid that we ever become so blinded by dollar signs that we forget the basic principles of our educational system and say anything else than the above! 

You say, perhaps, that this is a very narrow position? I agree, again. But I ask: since when has the way of the Christian been anything else but narrow? 

Notice, in the second place, that the government subsidy movement is emphatically not something neutral, but involves seeking financial support forenemies of the Reformed faith. 

No, I am not now talking about so-called separation of church and state, though it is indeed difficult to understand how that idea can be maintained in the courts of our land in view of the fact that support of Roman Catholic schools would involve parochialschools, that is, schools that are directly the property and responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church. 

Nor am I talking about the fact that the overwhelmingamount of government subsidy, if granted, will go to such Roman Catholic schools. I could do so. For it is a fact that the whole parochiaid movement would founder and fail utterly except for the fact that. the Roman Catholics, as a whole, are strongly behind it. This is true of every published instance of a drive for government subsidy thus far. It is a fact that the Christian school movement constitutes so small a minority that it would not stand a ghost of a chance if it were to seek such subsidy in the halls of government all by itself. It is a fact, too, which can be supported by published statistics, that the Roman Catholics are notoriously poor, in comparison with our schools, in paying for education and in charging and paying tuition. It is even a fact that in some cases they operate schools which are debt-free and which charge no tuition, and yet are clamoring for government subsidy. It is also a fact that it is chiefly Roman Catholic schools which are closing because of financial difficulties and which are threatening to dump a large influx of pupils upon the public school system. And why, pray, even in this light should we be so foolish as to help fight their battle? 

Nevertheless, what I am concerned about is that they are enemies of the Reformed faith. How is it possible for children of the Reformation to be in favor of government subsidy for a school system of our mortal enemies and a school system which stands to benefit more than any other from such subsidy? Does this not offend the sensibilities of any right-thinking son or daughter of the Reformation? It ought to! Or have we become so blandly “democratic” and “tolerant” and “ecumenically minded” that this makes no difference any longer?


As a matter of information, I may state that as of this writing a form of parochiaid is being sought also in the state of Indiana. The governor of Illinois has also proposed it to the state legislature. Here in Michigan the state senate has passed an education bill without parochiaid; it is reported that an effort will be made to tack it on in the house of representatives, but that it will probably be only a token amount this year, partly for the purpose of getting a test in the courts. The propaganda mills continue to grind, however.