Why 2K Is a Crucial Year

By Doerr, Edd | The Humanist, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Why 2K Is a Crucial Year


Doerr, Edd, The Humanist


   I shall be telling this with a sigh
   Somewhere ages and ages hence:
   Two roads diverged in a wood,
   and I--
   I took the one less traveled by,
   And that has made all the
   difference.

--Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Whether 2000 marks the end of one century or the beginning of another is of no significance whatsoever. This year will be crucial for the future of church-state separation, one of the most important features of a free democratic country.

By summer the U.S. Supreme Court will decide four major cases. The first involves certain tax-paid aid to sectarian private schools in Louisiana. The Court's decision could influence the outcome of the national drive to get massive tax support for nonpublic schools through tuition vouchers or tax credits.

The second case involves school-sponsored prayer at athletic events in Texas and also could have national significance. The latest gimmick of the school-prayer lobby is "nondenomination, nonproselytizing, student-sponsored" prayer--a mythical beast in the imagination of Christian Coalition lawyers.

The third case to be decided by the High Court deals with late-term dilation and extraction (D&X) abortions in Nebraska. The campaign against what have been misnomered "partial birth" abortions attempts to have politicians dictate medical decisions and increases risks for women in certain problem pregnancy cases.

Finally, the Court is expected to rule on a New Jersey case about whether the Boy Scouts of America--which receives various government aid--may violate state anti-discrimination laws. The rights at stake here not only affect gays but nontheists and religious dissenters.

On the state level, a challenge to Florida's school voucher plan is underway--not long after an Ohio judge ruled Cleveland's plan unconstitutional, in the tradition of existing U.S. Supreme Court precedents. If the issue of vouchers reaches the High Court this year, Republican appointees--William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas--could force a move away from the sound positions of such past justices as William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, and Harry Blackmun.

Michigan voters will face a religious right-sponsored initiative this fall aimed at repealing the amendment added to the state constitution in 1970 (which I helped write and campaigned for) that bars all tax aid to sectarian private schools. Other battles will break out in Congress and several state legislatures over vouchers and other schemes to divert public funds to nonpublic schools.

Religious right activists in Kansas and other states are continuing their campaigns to drive evolution out of public school science classes and install some version of creationist dogma. …

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