Voucher programs are not only unsound as a matter of education policy, but they also violate the separation of church and state and threaten students’ religious liberty. Most schools participating in voucher programs are pervasively sectarian; therefore, the provision of public funds to these schools forces taxpayers to subsidize religion. This forced subsidization of religion violates freedom of conscience and is, we believe, completely contrary to the intent of the Founders and the core principles behind the constitutional separation of church and state. Thomas Jefferson, for example, viewed freedom of conscience as the idea that no one “shall be compelled to…support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”1 And in his famous “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison explained his objection to such assessments by noting: “The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man…Who does not see that…the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of only one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment, in all cases whatsoever?”2
In addition to requiring compelled support of religion, voucher programs also result in the public funding of religious discrimination. Unless voucher statutes provide to the contrary, the evidence shows that private religious schools will use religious affiliation to decide which students to accept.3 Private religious school administrators surveyed around the country have stated that they would not accept voucher students if forced to allow students to opt out of religious services. Further, even where “opt-out” provisions are allowed, the religious instruction in many religious schools permeates all academic subjects, making “opting out” impracticable and threatening the quality of voucher students’ academic experience.