If it will hurt the Catholics, I’m for it!” The minister who expressed this frank but enthusiastic lack of moral discrimination reflects the thinking of an impressive segment of California’s Protestant clergy. I have heard a reasonable facsimile of this viewpoint in the last 18 months from more Protestants than I care to remember.

The remark concerned a November 4 ballot issue in California which has split the Protestant community. Both sides are campaigning vehemently to increase their Protestant support, for this will be decisive. The position of the Roman Catholic church is united and unequivocal, but it represents only 20 per cent of the population.

The controversial measure, an initiative constitutional amendment, is officially known as “Proposition No. 16.” Thus it gained its place on the ballot through petitions circulated more than a year ago among the voters of the state. It seeks to place in the California State Constitution a provision to deny property tax exemption to all nonprofit, nonpublic schools from kindergarten through grade 12, except those for the handicapped. Once in the Constitution this denial of exemption will be out of the reach of the Legislature and can be altered or reversed only at another general election.

This is not a new issue. After the State Legislature by a vote of 108 to 3 granted tax exemption in 1951 to nonprofit private schools below collegiate grade, a Protestant group disapproving this measure sponsored a referendum. At the polls in 1952 the electorate upheld the action of their lawmakers although the contest was close. Advocates of taxing schools then took the matter to the courts where they were again defeated. The California and the United States Supreme courts in effect affirmed ...

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