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THE END OF PAROCHIAID? 

The Supreme Court of the United States has made a long-awaited decision concerning the constitutionality of financial assistance to private and parochial schools. There were two plans which were before the highest court: one from the state of Rhode Island which provided a fifteen per cent salary supplement to parochial school teachers who taught only secular subjects; the other was a plan in Pennsylvania under which schools were reimbursed by the state for the teaching of secular subjects. But although these two plans alone were considered by the court, there are thirty-six states with varying plans of assistance to private and parochial schools which will be affected by the new ruling. 

The ruling of the court was that direct financial assistance to private and parochial schools below the college level was in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which establishes the principle of separation between Church and State. The ruling was eight to one, Justice Byron R. White being the lone dissenter. The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger who cited especially three reasons why such aid was unconstitutional. The first reason was that a teacher under religiQus control in a religious school would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to separate religious from secular aspects of education. Hence the principle of the First Amendment would be imperiled. The second reason was that extensive surveillance would be required to ensure that teachers do not give such religious instruction. And the last reason was that such state programs would be potentially divisive. Such divisive consequences were already apparent in states where such assistance programs were considered; and, in Burger’s opinion, the First Amendment was specifically adopted to avoid such evils. 

It would seem as if this would be the end of the matter. But apparently this is not to be the case. For one thing, the Court prohibited such aid to pre-college education. This was done on the grounds that colleges are less openly involved in religious training than grade schools, junior and senior high schools. The result is that government money is still available for construction of buildings which will not be used for religious teaching. Secondly, nothing has been said in this decision about other government help programs such as hot lunch programs, milk programs, tax exempt status of schools, etc., although in other decisions the court upheld such programs. And so, already, various groups which have been spearheading the drive for government aid are investigating the possibility of loopholes in the Court’s ruling and the possibility of programs which would be declared Constitutional. One such program being proposed is a system of educational vouchers paid out of public funds which would be given to parents to help pay tuition., Another program is a system of tax credits for part of tuition payments. 

And so it is obvious that the battle is not over. However, the ruling of the Court is a big step in the direction of keeping public funds out of private schools. For this we may be thankful. It is probably true that our people would reject such assistance even if it was made available, but now the temptation is not even there. But more important is the fact that now the tax money which our people already pay to support public education will not be increased and used for religious instruction in schools both parochial and private. 

As a footnote to all this, it is interesting that a plan before the Wisconsin legislature to give aid to private schools specifically spoke of control over the schools to which aid would be given. A paragraph in Christian News gives some pertinent information concerning this bill. The paragraph reads:

To be noted also is that the control which the Wisconsin tuition grant bill S138 envisions may interfere with the right of the school to teach its own doctrine. Schools receiving financial assistance through tuition grants must submit “to supervision by the Department of Public Instruction”; must “maintain a system of accounting adequately showing the cost of secular education, and open to audit by the legislative audit bureau”; and “the teachers must have qualifications equivalent to those which would be required if he were employed in that teaching position in a public school.” The school is also required to make “a statement that the school will admit as a student any resident child without regard to race, creed, color or national origin.” The latter provisions as to creed can only result in eventual interference in the spiritual work of the Church. We want no part of it.

This matter of “creed” has recently come up in connection with the efforts of the Board of Covenant Christian High School to obtain tax exemption status. It is not yet known whether such tax exemption status can be obtained without such a statement as referred to above. It is the position of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod that such a statement would clearly invite government control. I am very much inclined to agree that this is true.

GAMBLING STILL A SIN 

A rather lengthy article recently appeared on the wires of “Religious News Service” in which the columnist pointed out that gambling has become so widespread in this country that it is being built into the framework of life. The reason for this is that some states have legalized gambling and made it taxable in order to gain additional funds for their money-starved treasuries. The same thing is happening in various cities. The cost of operating city and state governments has climbed so drastically in the last few years that some governments are on the verge of bankruptcy. Here is an easy way to take in large amounts of money. Just make gambling legal, control it in such a way that it is governed by city or state laws, tax it, and the money rolls in. What is forgotten, of course, is the fact that by legalizing gambling, and this in order to increase government revenues, sin is legalized and appeal is made to wicked instincts in people. 

It is not our intention to discuss at this point in any kind of detail the rights and wrongs of gambling. It is sufficient for our present purposes to point out that gambling always appeals to the covetous heart of man—to gain something for nothing; and that it is a gross violation of Christian stewardship. 

What does trouble us is the fact that many, even from the world, see that gambling is becoming a normal part of human life and that it is such a normal part of life that it is almost impossible to avoid the sin. This brings to mind the very real possibility that the child of God stands daily in the danger of becoming insensitive to sin. There are many times when even around Christian homes and in the relationships of Christians mutually, a little gambling is considered an innocent pastime and little more than a moment’s fun. We speak easily of betting each other about this or that; of flipping pennies; of playing games for small amounts of money; and some such references to gambling. What frightens me is the fact that even such little incursions into gambling are not innocent games, but are sinful and evil in the sight of God. And sin has a way of entangling one in its tentacles. When we play such “innocent” games and use such language without really meaning what we say, we gradually become insensitive to sin. These things become such a normal part of our life that we do not even consider them as sin any more. They are “for the fun of it.” And the sensitivity to sin is gone. The awareness that we transgress God’s law is forgotten. There is a certain hardness and callousness of soul which takes its place. Sin does not bother us or rouse our conscience. It is all in a day’s fun; and one is narrow-minded in the extreme if one protests such things. 

The world speaks of “compulsive gamblers.” These are people who are caught in such a web of gambling that it is like an addiction to them. They cannot refrain from it any more than an alcoholic can escape from his drink. The world calls these people sick, and organizes “Gamblers Anonymous” to treat such people. But we had better be very sure that we never call sin sickness and that we do not “treat” the sinner as one who is ill and in need of hospitalization. This would be disastrous. The fact of the matter is that there may indeed be compulsive gamblers; but these are people who are so caught in the entanglements of sin that there is no escape. Sin is a monster, a horrible power, a terrible reality. Give in a little to sin and one soon finds himself caught in sin’s snares. 

The danger is all the more real when gambling is legalized and when it becomes a part of “normal” life. It is well to avoid then the littlest semblance of sin lest one be caught and trapped.

ABORTION ON DEMAND 

What we have said above concerning insensitivity to sin is a truth which applies to many different areas. The constant drinker becomes insensitive to the sin of drunkenness. The barrage of sex is sometimes so overwhelming in our day that we are in danger of thinking that pre-marital or extra-marital sex is, after all, not a sin. The same thing is happening in the current abortion debate. More and more states are passing laws which permit abortion on demand. The propaganda is so intense that one falls into the danger of losing sight of Scripture’s injunctions on this matter and considering abortion an easy way out of a deplorable situation. 

The argument concerning abortion still revolves around the question of when the unborn child becomes a person. Or, as it is sometimes put: When does the soul enter the embryo? Recently the Detroit Free Presscarried a column on this matter which, because of its pinpointing of this issue, is worth quoting. The article was written in response to a question.

When, in your opinion, does the soul enter an embryo during pregnancy? This subject is receiving a good deal of attention these days, and a scientific reaction would be appreciated. 

Of the countless contacts between man and wife, only a very few result in conception. It therefore seems reasonable to suppose that a soul must enter the embryo for pregnancy to take place. 

Answer: Scientifically speaking, conception occurs when the female ova or egg is penetrated by the male sperm—assuming, of course, that both are healthy and that the uterus is able to perform its proper function in maintaining the pregnancy. 

As to when the soul enters the embryo, I can only conjecture. Science, of course, has not yet affirmed the existence of the soul. Thus it can offer no meaningful observations regarding the question you pose. 

Mankind in general has probably speculated on this subject since the beginning of time. Some contend, as you suggest, that the soul arrives at the moment of conception. 

Various other views maintain that the soul enters the body when: (1) the embryo attains a fairly human appearance and begins to “kick”, (2) the unborn child is viable (capable of surviving outside the mother), (3) the first breath is drawn following delivery, (4) the umbilical cord is severed and the child is existing “on its own.” 

Your question is an intriguing one and certainly relevant in view of the current abortion issue. I doubt, however, that people will ever attain a unanimity on the subject. Not in this life, at least.

This article which was handed me by a reader of theStandard Bearer who asked me to comment on it, puts its finger upon the central issue. That is to say, this is the central issue if abortion is to be condemned as murder. It is possible, of course, that while abortion cannot be condemned as murder, it is still wrong on other grounds. But if it is murder, then this is true only because the unborn child, from conception on, is a person who has a body and soul. 

We cannot discuss this question at any more length in this issue. The Lord willing, we shall return to it.