Cleveland Vouchers go to the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on whether Cleveland can help children in low-income families pay tuition at private religious schools. Slate.com notes that it "may well be the biggest case of the term. Not only will it affect education policy in the many states contemplating vouchers, but it will also signal the court's openness to President Bush's proposed faith-based charities policy." Other papers are saying it's even bigger, comparing it to Brown v. Board of Education. With such importance, just about every major paper in the country has the story. The New York Times offers great detail, with many quotes from the justices and lawyers. "The court was engaged and extremely attentive as five lawyers, three for Ohio and two for the voucher opponents, made their case in an 80-minute argument, a rare departure from the court's one-hour standard," writes Linda Greenhouse. "A sweeping decision that would settle the future of such programs appeared unlikely."
The decision (expected by July) may not be all that sweeping, but it will certainly be a huge victory to whichever side of the voucher debate wins. So which way will it go? "All eyes were on Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was seen as holding the deciding vote because of her position in the center of the court on church-state issues," writes Greenhouse. "She gave little away, pressing both sides and expressing some skepticism about the answers she received."
An editorial in the Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer, warns against prognostications: "Judging from their comments and records, it's safe to guess that certain justices—such as William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia—will support Ohio's voucher program. But handicapping the outcome based on Wednesday's proceedings is chancy at best. Ahead are months of closed-door arguments, privately circulated briefs and, ultimately, a decision."
That doesn't stop other papers from hazarding guesses. USA Today says the justices "appeared receptive" to the idea. The Los Angeles Times reports, "At least five justices—including, notably, Sandra Day O'Connor—sounded during the argument as though they were leaning toward the pro-voucher side." The Baltimore Sun also reports that "Justice Sandra Day O'Connor … repeatedly noted that parents in the ailing Cleveland school system can enroll their children in non-religious charter or magnet schools or use money from the 6-year-old voucher program to pay for private tutors." One of the strongest predictions comes from Tony Mauro at The American Lawyer: "The school voucher movement appeared to be on its way to a major constitutional victory … Justice Sandra Day O'Connor appeared largely untroubled by the argument that taxpayer-funded vouchers, as they operate in Cleveland, overwhelmingly benefit religious schools."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution picks out two other swing votes: Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy. Indeed, newspapers are very divided on where Breyer stands. The Chicago Tribune reports, "Justice Stephen Breyer said the program appears to be a government endorsement of religious instruction because 'it was putting up massive amounts of money.' 'That's a problem that bothers me,' Breyer said." Most papers put Breyer more or less in the anti-voucher column, but the Los Angeles Times notes early that he "commented that the Catholic schools in Cleveland appeared to offer a higher quality of education than the public schools. Were he a parent there, Breyer said, he might send his children to those schools, even though he is Jewish."
It may be too early to count Supreme Court votes, but editorials and opinion pieces continue to pour in on the issue. Among those in the pro-voucher category: The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and The Washington Times. Against vouchers: The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Detroit Free Press, The Akron Beacon-Journal, and USA Today.
Persecution in China:
- He fights from afar for the faithful in China | Bob Fu and his colleague, Li Shixiong, have launched a two-man effort to draw attention to the worsening state of religious freedom in China (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- China's leap of faith | Country wants to promote "religion," attack "cults" (Asia Times)
- No longer enemies, but … | President's visit comes as China is cracking down on the Falungong sect and Christian worshipers (The World, NPR)
Church and state:
- Ten Commandments may be overruled by Supreme Court's one | Indiana case under review (Legal Times)
- 'In God We Trust' pressed for schools | Patriotic fervor in the wake of the terrorist attacks has helped revive an effort to post the words "In God We Trust" in every school in the nation. (USA Today)
- Media spotlight misses Utah's home-grown success story | Look beyond the myths, find a state committed to promoting religious liberty in public schools (Charles Haynes, Freedom Forum)
- Why the Spanish Inquisition joke may be illegal | The Government may not have anticipated the full implications of the new crime of religiously aggravated harassment (Neil Addison, The Times, London)
- Brazil party courts Christians | In an unprecedented break with its leftwing ideology, Brazil's Workers Party is seeking the support of a powerful evangelical church in hopes of boosting its chance to win the presidential elections in October (Financial Times)
- Blasphemy at the National Day of Prayer | Church leaders hail Mugabe and his regime (Shelton T Nhamoinesu, The Daily News, Harare, Zimbabwe)
- Women say they were fondled in exorcisms | Roseville pastor charged with improper touching during two procedures (The Detroit News)
- Priest avoids prison in thefts | Diocese to get $1 million in restitution (The Washington Post)
- Churches praise detectives | Three arrests may solve over 25 burglaries at worship places (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
- Arthur Andersen faces court trial over Baptist investment foundation | Resemblance to Enron saga is eerie (The Wall Street Journal—subscribers only)
- Judge denies injunction on Choose Life plate money | Pro-choice groups are challenging the distribution system because they aren't eligible for any of the money under a state law reserving tag profits for agencies offering adoption services but not abortion services (Associated Press)
- Fertility society choosing embryos just for sex selection | Centers say they will abide by ethics committee's stance against it (The New York Times)
Money & business:
- Keeping the faith has some financial rewards | More religious institutions are linking faith and finances (Chicago Tribune)
- Jacksonville pastors put faith in businesses | Most involved in areas where jobs are lacking (Jacksonville Times-Union)
- Deduct noncash gifts—with care | The IRS wants you to get tax credit for donations. Just get the value right. (Christian Science Monitor)
- Parents sue over Crown Point church's 'gross-out game' | Youth pastor says activity was done in fun, no harm was intended. (The Times, Munster, Indiana)
- National crusade wants all churches closed on Sunday | Liberia for Jesus Crusade wants congregations to worship together (The News, Monrovia)
Missions & ministry:
- Come on Anglicans, you need to thump a little harder | I've been waiting for months to be converted, but there is no fire in God's modern-day messengers (Michael Wong, The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Performer juggles faith, pins | A church event featured a juggler who discussed faith and lessons of the Bible in a visible way. (Monroe [Mich.] Evening News)
- African priests issue plea for food | Malawi faces shortage after poor corn harvest (Associated Press)
- Amy Grant to release "Legacy" May 21 | Album marks 25 years of recording (Press release)
- Bruce Wilkinson leaving Walk Thru the Bible | Jabez author will focus on television and film (Crosswalk)
- Graham's daughter to lead fall revival | "Just Give Me Jesus" goes to Cleveland (The Plain Dealer)
Other stories of interest:
- 'Christian values' set the tempo of daily life in Franklin, Tenn. | Christian evangelicals dominate religious life here, and they are straightforward about their convictions (USA Today)
- Monaghan proposes world's largest crucifix | 25-story religious icon to anchor Ave Maria campus (The Detroit News)
- Psychics able to obtain 'proof' | Soothsayers can earn certification (The Tallahassee [Fla.] Democrat)
- Spirituality prevents depression in old age | Church support makes biggest difference (WebMD)
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