Of practical interest to our Michigan readers, but of general interest to us all because of our concern for covenantal education, is Proposal C, which will be voted on in the November election in Michigan. This is a proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution which will make parochiaid impossible. The legislature in Michigan finally passed a proposal to provide $22 million in state aid to private schools in the current fiscal year. This provision has also been upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court. Meanwhile, public school forces succeeded by petition and referendum to get the matter on the ballot by way of this proposed amendment.
As it will appear on the ballot, the proposed amendment would “prohibit use of public funds to aid any non-public elementary or secondary school; prohibit use of public funds, except for transportation, to support the attendance of any students or the employment of any person at non-public schools or at any location or institution where instruction in whole or in part is offered to non-public school students; prohibit any payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption, or deductions, of public monies or property, directly or indirectly, for the above purposes.”
Reading the above language, one cannot escape the conclusion that this is indeed an amendment that would put a complete stop to any kind of state aid to private schools.
From this Point of view, one would conclude that here is an amendment for which we can and should vote—not because of our agreement with the principles and motives of the public school forces (for we are as opposite as black and white), but because of our Christian and Reformed opposition to the entire idea of parochiaid.
Nevertheless, this proposed amendment puts us between a rock and a hard place.
The problem is that the proposed amendment is so vague in its provisions that it could conceivably result in another form of government control of our schools which would be fully as evil, namely, control by taxation.
The parochiaid forces have used many scare tactics in opposing this amendment, and they have raised much hullabaloo about all the other benefits which Christian schools would lose under this amendment. It is said that driver’s education, remedial education, typing instruction, and all so-called auxiliary services (including participation in interscholastic athletics; wouldn’t that be a relief!) would be lost. This writer does not care a proverbial snap of the fingers about those auxiliary services. If we want to have Christian schools, then let the world go its way, and let us have 100% Christian education right down the line.
But there is one item which is very important and. which could conceivably be involved in this amendment. That item is the property tax exemption which our schools (and churches) now enjoy. My concern is not first of all the amount of money which our schools would be compelled to pay out if they lose this exemption. It is rather the principle that this would involve government control of another kind. The power to tax is the power to control. For example, this power to tax could be used to tax us right out of existence. Hence, though different, the loss of tax exemption would be just another form of state control. And we are opposed to state control in any form.
The problem is that this issue is up in the air; and it is a problem which cannot be resolved before the election. There have been many avowals from supporters of this amendment that the tax exemption is not involved here at all, and that, in fact, there are other provisions in the constitution which cover this matter and protect our tax exemption. The attorney general has also given this as his opinion. Yet there are many legal experts who think differently. And there has been no official decision on the matter. The attempt was made to keep the proposal off the ballot on the ground of its vagueness, but this also failed.
Hence, the rock is parochiaid and its government control, which we do not want.
The hard place is the possible loss of tax exemption and its implied government control, which we also do not want.
And the Christian antiparochiaid voter is caught between the two.
My personal conclusion—unless further clarification comes before election day—is that I cannot vote Yesand I cannot vote No.
If the present amendment fails, it is to be hoped that a more clearly worded amendment will be presented in the future. And judging from the antiparochiaid fury of the public school forces in Michigan—and I predicted that the ire of the public school men, who, after all, hate Christian education, would be aroused—they will not rest until they have made parochiaid impossible. Christian school friends may well hope and pray that in accomplishing this goal those same forces will not ultimately try to destroy separate education altogether!
Meanwhile, perhaps the best course would be that the whole matter of parochiaid goes to the U.S. Supreme Court and is there ruled to be contrary to the First Amendment. This is a distinct possibility, since lower Federal Courts have already ruled both ways on the question and appeals are being carried to the Supreme Court, both for and against. If the highest court would throw it out, then we might be permanently rid of parochiaid. That would solve many problems.