Government subsidy to church schools is unconstitutional. Most state constitutions forbid it, as does the First Amendment to the federal Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.…” The prohibiton is clear and it is absolute. “No law” means no law. The Constitution does not say that, of course, if it is a matter of “helping children,” church benefit laws may be passed. It does not say that the ban need not apply to certain features of the church, such as its educational programs. It does not say that there can be an exception if the purpose is to help the poor. It says plainly: “no law.” It means that Congress is not to get into the area of religion, that it is to undertake nothing that pertains to religion. As the Supreme Court has expressed the meaning of the no-establishment clause in the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education:

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.… No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.

The Founding Fathers were well aware of the church-state problem and were determined that this ugly chapter of old-world history would not be reopened in the new. This was their purpose in drafting the First Amendment.

Now it is true that there ...

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